Lunar New Year, also known as Spring Festival or Chinese New Year, is a major festival celebrated by billions of people across the world on the first new moon of their calendar. The date of the festival varies from year to year, but usually falls between late January and mid-February. This year, Lunar New Year begins on Tuesday, February 1, and marks the start of the Year of the Tiger.
Lunar New Year has its origins in ancient China, where it was a time to honor ancestors, deities, and the arrival of spring. According to legend, a mythical beast called Nian would attack villagers at the beginning of each year, and people used loud noises, bright lights, and the color red to scare it away. These elements are still part of the modern celebrations, along with other customs such as cleaning the house, exchanging gifts, and eating special foods.
Different countries and regions have their own ways of celebrating Lunar New Year, reflecting their diverse cultures and traditions. Here are some examples of how people around the world welcome the new year:
- In China, the festival lasts for 15 days, ending with the Lantern Festival on the full moon. People decorate their homes with red lanterns, paper cuttings, and couplets. They also set off fireworks and firecrackers, and watch dragon and lion dances. Family reunions are an important part of the festival, and many people travel long distances to join their relatives for a feast on New Year’s Eve. Children receive red envelopes containing money from their elders, and adults exchange greetings of prosperity and happiness.
- In Korea, the festival is called Seollal, and lasts for three days. People wear traditional clothes called hanbok, and perform ancestral rites at home or at ancestral graves. They also play folk games, such as yut, a board game with sticks, and jegichagi, a game of kicking a shuttlecock. A popular dish eaten during Seollal is tteokguk, a soup made with sliced rice cakes, which symbolizes longevity and good fortune.
- In Vietnam, the festival is called Tet, and is the most important holiday of the year. People clean their houses, pay off their debts, and buy new clothes and flowers. They also prepare special foods, such as banh chung, a sticky rice cake wrapped in banana leaves, and mut, candied fruits and nuts. On New Year’s Eve, people gather to watch fireworks and light incense at temples. They also visit their relatives and friends, and give lucky money to children and elders.
- In Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, the festival is a public holiday and a time of cultural diversity. People of different ethnicities and religions join in the celebrations, which include street parades, carnivals, and concerts. One of the highlights of the festival is the Chingay Parade, a colorful procession of floats, dancers, and performers. Another popular activity is the lo hei, or yusheng, a salad of raw fish and vegetables that is tossed in the air with chopsticks while saying auspicious phrases.
- In the United States, the festival is not a federal holiday, but is widely celebrated by Asian Americans and other communities. Many cities host Lunar New Year parades, festivals, and fairs, featuring cultural performances, arts and crafts, and food stalls. Some of the largest and oldest celebrations are held in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The festival is also recognized by some schools, businesses, and institutions, which may hold special events or offer greetings to their students, employees, or customers.
Lunar New Year is a festive occasion that showcases the richness and diversity of Asian cultures and traditions. It is also a time of family, friendship, and gratitude, as well as hope and optimism for the new year. As the Year of the Tiger begins, people around the world wish each other health, happiness, and prosperity. Happy Lunar New Year!