The observance of the New Year (Xin Nian) typically several days, but the New Year season lasts from the middle of the previous years’ final month to the middle of the first month in the new year.
In the system of reckoning time, years are named in cycles of sixty years. The name of the year repeats every sixty years, therefore.
2010 is the 11th year in the 60 year cycle and is called gengyin. It is the year 4707… year of the Tiger.
To prepare for the New Year, people give their houses thorough cleaning so as to symbolically sweeping misfortune or bad luck and make room for incoming good fortune that they want to arrive.
Doors and windows are often painted and decorated with paper cutouts depicting happiness, wealth and longevity. Characters on red paper are placed upside down on doors, because the Chinese word for "upside down" – "dao" – is like the word for "arrive", so, if the character for "spring" is put up upside down, that means that ‘spring is arriving". The same for "good fortune" etc.
New Year is a time for family gatherings.
Among the foods that are eaten are jiaozi – a boiled dumpling, literally meaning "sleep together and have sons", the meaning of which is apparent.
Fish is also eaten because the Chinese word for "fish" sounds the same as that for "abundance".
One also eats a seaweed called fat choi, a word sounding "prosperity". Noodles symbolize a long life.
On New Year’s Eve you are to leave all the lights on in your house tonight, by the way. I hear that is very good luck – particularly for the electric company.
In the morning children get hong bao which are red envelopes with some money. They will customarily say "Where’s the red envelope?!?" until you cough it up. Therefore, I will put my donation button on this post!
People visit their neighbors to greet each other. You might think about doing that, since that can also be a work of mercy.
People give mandarin oranges as a token of good will and good fortune.
So, I greet all of you with a hearty Gongxi facai!