BEIJING, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese will begin celebrating the lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival on Feb. 10. Most Chinese people follow traditional cultural elements and customs in what is the most festive season in the country every year.
YEAR OF THE SNAKE
The Spring Festival this year marks the beginning of the Year of the Snake, according to the Chinese zodiac that assigns one of the 12 animals, either real or fabricated, to each year. The snake ranks sixth in the cycle, preceded by the dragon and followed by the horse.
Snakes were worshipped by the oldest Chinese as a totem. Unearthed millennia-old stone carvings depict Fuxi and Nuwa, mythological ancestors of the Chinese, as half-human, half-snake.
Some historians also believe the dragon, the national emblem of China, was based on images of snakes, which is why people in many places still call snakes "lesser dragons."
Former Chinese leader Mao Zedong and Xi Jinping, the newly elected helmsman of the Communist Party of China, are among those born under the sign of snake.
In many Chinese regions, those who encounter the year of their zodiac sign are recommended to wear something red to ward off bad luck, with the most common being red string wristlets and red underpants.
FIREWORKS, LANTERNS, COUPLETS
Most people stay up late on the eve of Chinese New Year, watching the TV gala, eating snacks with their families. Those who choose to go to bed early are often woken up at midnight by fireworks, which continue for days after.
The fireworks and the red decorations in front of many homes and businesses were originally intended to scare away the "Nian" (year in Chinese), a mythical beast supposed to have preyed on people and livestock at the turn of the year. The monster, however, was afraid of bangs and the red color.
Although few now believe existence of the monster, Chinese families carry on the tradition of hanging red lanterns, setting off fireworks and fixing red scrolls with rhyming phrases on their doors, hoping all the items can ward off evil spirits and bring in good luck.
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