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Chun Jie Kuai Le! Happy New Year!

Traditions of Celebrating Lunar New Year Around Asia


Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash


For the majority of Americans, a new year begins only on one set day, Jan. 1. However, the date, the way and the duration of welcoming a new year depends on where you are in the world. Celebrated by a quarter of the global population, Lunar New Year is one of the most important holidays in Asia as it marks the first day on a lunar calendar. Since Lunar New Year is based on the cycle of the moon, the date of the holiday is different every year; this year, it was on Jan. 22. Even though a lot of people think that the holiday is the same as Chinese New Year, Lunar New Year is celebrated not just in China, but in multiple countries around Asia. Even outside of Asia, the tradition continues among Asian immigrants and their descendants. If you are unfamiliar with Lunar New Year, here are four things you should know about it.


Food

One of the most important events of Lunar New Year is family reunion, which usually happens at the dinner table. For this reason, food plays a huge role in the holiday. In China, whole fish is a must-have because the word for fish in Mandarin Chinese is pronounced just like the Chinese word for surplus. Similarly, oranges are another essential element of dinner because the word for tangerine in Cantonese, another kind of Chinese language, sounds like the word for gold. In addition to these dishes with special meanings, rice cake is a popular item not just in China, but in several Asian countries. While it gets wrapped in banana leaf to make banh chung in Vietnam, it is fried in the Philippines to make what is known as tikoy. In Korea, it is used in tteokguk, a soup people eat on New Year’s morning to “officially” get a year older in their nominal age.


12 animals

In many Asian countries, each year corresponds to a specific animal from the Chinese zodiac sign. The animals in order are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. Since there are 12 animals, the cycle repeats every 12 years. This year, 2023, is a year of the Rabbit except in Vietnam, where the order of animals is slightly different. In Chinese culture, the Rabbit represents peace, beauty, delicacy and prosperity. Interestingly enough, even though people believe that the zodiac signs are linked to their personality, love compatibility and future, the year of your zodiac sign means bad luck to you. 


Money

Lunar New Year is one of the favorite holidays among many children because they get to be full of wealth. The tradition of giving money is prevalent during the holiday period, and its primary purpose is to wish people luck, success and longevity. Although the details vary among countries, the most common tradition is that older family members give money to younger family members in red envelopes or packets. In Korea, prior to receiving money, children do a traditional bow called “sebae” in front of their parents or grandparents, who hand the envelope as they present their yearly advice or wishes. In China, however, the culture is evolving over time as people today give money not only to children, but also their friends and colleagues through WeChat with a red envelope emoji.


Spring Festival

Lunar New Year is also known as Spring Festival, named so because people welcome spring and what comes along, such as harvests and fresh starts. Spring Festival is the most important Chinese festival as it unites families and causes the world’s biggest annual migration. The celebration usually lasts for around 15 days and hits its climax on New Year’s Eve. Common events include parades with lion and dragon dancers and fireworks, which are done at midnight on New Year’s Eve to scare the monsters away. Throughout the festival, you can see red lanterns, red dragons, red costumes and pretty much anything else in red since red is believed to bring luck.

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Andy Poll

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