Chinese New Year
Red decorations are said to bring wealth and prosperity to the year ahead Reuters

Chinese New Year is the most important day of the Chinese calendar and the Year of the Horse, which begins on Friday (31 January) sets off 15 days of celebrations.

The Lunar New Year or Spring Festival will be dominated by red decorations believed to bring prosperity, street dancing and performances, firework displays and an abundance of paper lanterns.

Chinese traditions underpin all elements of the Lunar New Year, from food to dancing dragons. Here are a few unusual facts and traditions about the Chinese New Year, as celebrations kick off.

Lucky red underwear

In Chinese tradition, the colour red is associated with luck and prosperity. The mythical half-dragon/half-lion "Nian" is said to appear during the New Year to attack unsuspecting people. Wearing red is the only protection. the colour also signifies wealth and prosperity.

The shoes of a guest are pictured as she poses on the red carpet arriving for the screening of the film "La Venus a la Fourrure" (Venus in Fur) in competition during the 66th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes May 25, 2013.
Buying shoes will bring bad luck for the year ahead, as the word for shoe sounds like a sigh Reuters

Rent a boyfriend

To avoid nagging parents, you can rent a boyfriend or partner to attend family events over the Lunar New Year. Online retailer Taobao, which offers the rental service, sees a big boost in business around the New Year. Rates vary from 8.8-300 yuan (90p to £30), depending on what the "rental" is used for but sexual activity is strictly forbidden.

Unlucky shoes

Superstition prevents people from buying shoes during the month of the Lunar New Year. The Cantonese word for shoes, hai, sounds like sighing. Some believe this is the wrong way to start a new year.

Breaking mirrors

If you break a mirror or a dish, you may incur bad luck for the entire year. But don't panic, if you do have an accident - quickly say "Peace for all time" and the omen will be warded off.

Washing hair

red lanterns
Red lanterns hang across a street in Shenyang Getty

For the first three days of the Lunar New Year, you should avoid washing your hair. Fa - Mandarin for hair - is a homonym for the word meaning wealth. So to wash your locks would wash away potential wealth.

No monochrome

Wearing black or white signifies mourning, so it is advisable to wear bright colours instead, such as red. You should not greet people who are in mourning.

Past your bedtime

The longer children are allowed to stay awake past their normal bedtime, the longer the parents will live. Letting kids stay up on Lunar New Year will bring a longer, healthier life.

Housework can wait

It is a time to celebrate and a time to put your feet up. It is believed that sweeping the floor and disposing of rubbish on the first day of the New Year will cast riches out of your door.