Chinese New Year 2014
A giant lantern depicting a horse is seen among Chinese New Year decorations at Yuyuan Garden, in downtown Shanghai Reuters

The Chinese New Year began on 31 January, and the calendar moves from the year of the snake to the year of the horse.

The Chinese zodiac calendar - known as Sheng Xiao - is divided into 12 cycles. Each cycle lasts 12 months and is represented by an animal.

The horse is associated with the element of wood (Chinese mythology has five primary alchemical elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water), and is therefore believed to bring a level of stability for most. Meanwhile, those born under this sign are known to possess good communication skills and are cheerful but stubborn.

Families follow a set of beliefs and superstitions to start the year on the right note.

Scroll down to take a look at the top Chinese superstitions:

      • Cleaning home before the start of the New Year: Before the holiday begins, families clean their houses to get rid of any ill-fortune associated with the past year and make room for welcoming good luck.
      • No Washing Hair: Chinese believe that it is important not to wash their hair on the first day of the new year as it may wash away one's luck.
      • Using fireworks: Lighting firecrackers is a major custom performed to scare off evil spirits and celebrate the coming of the New Year.
      • No ghost stories: Children and adults are not allowed to tell ghost stories, as they relate to death and negative energy.
      • Avoid using sharp objects: Using knives or scissors are avoided as they may cut off fortune.
      • Wear something red: The colour red is considered to be the ultimate luck bringer at this time of year. Red envelopes with money are given to children and unmarried people.
      • Don't wear black: Black clothing is avoided as it relates to death and mourning.
      • Pay all your debts: Some believe that not paying off debts ahead of the new year may result in ending the year the same way. Lending money is also discouraged as it may mean that the person will be lending money throughout the year.
      • No gifting clocks: Watches or time pieces are avoided because they symbolise time is running out or end of relationships.
      • Mandarin oranges: The practice of giving Mandarin oranges is also a symbol of good luck. They are exchanged in two's among friends and families, relating to the Chinese saying that "good things come in pairs".