chinese new year
A tourist walks under the lanterns along a street ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year outside Raohe street Night Market in Taipei, Taiwan, Jan. 18, 2017. Reuters

The Chinese New Year, or the Spring Festival, is one of the most important traditional celebrations in China and other countries with a large Chinese population. This year the festival falls on Saturday.

The holiday was originally linked to the lunar-solar Chinese calendar. The earliest-known records of the celebrations date back to as early as the 14th century B.C. — when the Shang Dynasty was in power — as shown by oracle bones engraved with astronomical records, according to the History Channel.

The Chinese calendar was static at the time, changing only when a new emperor came to power. Now, the festival is celebrated following the first day of the first month in the Chinese calendar. This is also the day of the second new moon after the winter solstice. Festivities end on the 15th day of the first month, known as the Lantern Festival.

Each year corresponds to one of 12 different zodiac signs and animals — the rooster, monkey, dragon, tiger, goat, dog, horse, snake, ox, rat, pig and rabbit. This year is the year of the rooster.

The new year is a family holiday and to kick-start the celebrations, people clean their homes and decorate them with red posters containing poetic verses. As 2017 is the year of the rooster, decorations related to the bird are very popular. Red lanterns are also a common sight.

The New Year’s Eve dinner, called the “reunion dinner,” is said to be the most important meal of the year for the Chinese. The extended family sits together for the meal, which traditionally includes long noodles symbolizing long life and dumplings signifying perfection.

People celebrate the New Year by bursting firecrackers, which they believe will cast away bad luck. Red envelopes are commonly used to give each other “luck” in the form of money.

There are also a number of superstitions also associated with the festival, including avoiding housecleaning so they don't sweep away good luck, keeping the rice jar full, not taking loans so as to prevent debt and wearing red for good luck, according to China Highlights.