Chinese New Year History
It is unclear when the exact beginning of the New Year celebration in China is. Normally, it was said to start from the year end religious ceremony in Shang Dynasty (1766 BC - 1122 BC). A few said that it started from as early as Emperor Yao and Shun (~2300 BC). At the beginning, the date of celebration varies from mid winter to early spring. With the mature of solar base calendar, Emperor Wu (157 BC - 87 BC) of the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220) established the first day of the first month as the beginning of the year, where it remains.
The following is a brief list:
Emperor Yao and Emperor Shun (~ 2300 BC):
small scale New Year celebration type of activities.
Shang Dynasty (1766 BC - 1122 BC):
New Year celebration started from religious ceremony.
Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220):
New Year celebration is officialized at the first day of the first month. Crack bamboo appeared. (Crack bamboo will create loud cracking sound when put on fire. It is believed that the sound can drive away evil.)
Wei Dynasty (220 - 265) and Jin Dynasty (265 - 420):
Fireworks used in New Year celebration. The tradition of Shou Sui formed.
Song Dynasty (960 - 1279):
Fireworks using gun powder came out.
According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Years started with the fight against a mythical beast called the "Year". The "Year" looks like ox with lion head and it stays in the sea. At the night of New Year's Eve, the "Year" will come out to harm people, animals, and proprieties. Later people found that the "Year" is afraid of red color, fire, and loud sound. Therefore, for self protection, people form the habit of posting red Dui Lian in front of the house, launching fireworks, and handing lantern at year end.