Chinese New Year comes around anywhere from late January to mid-February on the Gregorian calendar, depending on the phases of the moon. That's why it's also known as the Lunar New Year. You may have also heard that it's the year of a certain animal or seen the parades in Chinatowns around the world, but that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Unlike my version of a New Year, which involves eating hors d'oeuvres and drinking champagne while watching a ball drop on TV, Chinese New Year is a really big deal.
During the celebration in China, the first day of the new year marks the end of the winter, so the cleaning ritual that happens before is also spring cleaning. There's a saying in Cantonese that means "wash away the dirt on Ninyabaat." Ninyabaat is the 28th day of the 12th month (the Chinese calendar having 12 months like the Gregorian one that we use). But it's just generally done before the first day of the new year. Thoroughly cleaning your home rids it of the bad luck of the past year and gets it ready to fill with the good luck sure to follow in the new one. Many people also use this time to repaint their homes and fix anything that's broken. Rooms should be swept from the entrance to the center, with trash going out the back door. The front door is for the good luck to come in! Cleaning tools like brooms are put away and not used for at least the first few days after the new year begins so they don't sweep away any good fortune.