Traditional ways to celebrate the Chinese New Year include setting off firecrackers, telling the legend of a mythical beast called Nian, making sacrificial offerings to ancestors on an altar, and performing lion and dragon dances. Other activities, such as decorating with red lanterns, are traditional in preparation of the holiday.
While the Chinese New Year celebration lasts for 15 days, most traditions occur on the first day because many Chinese people believe that activities performed on the first day of the lunar Chinese calendar directly affect their luck for the remainder of the year.
Although the government banned the tradition of lighting fireworks in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou due to its dangerous nature, many smaller and rural cities still practice this custom. Families often stay up for the stroke of midnight to celebrate, and young children are encouraged to light mini firecrackers and throw them in the street as the clock strikes midnight.
Another tradition of the Chinese New Year festival includes telling the story of Nian, a mythical beast that devoured livestock and people on New Year's Eve. Hanging red scrolls and lanterns in door passages and windows is a tradition that the Chinese believe wards off the beast and protects those that hang them from harm.