Ringing In A Lunar New Year

Karen Guo

The Lunar New Year, also known as the Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival in China and East Asia, is a traditional holiday that people in Asia celebrate at the beginning of a new year on the lunar calendar (a day normally falls between late January and early February on the solar calendar). The solar calendar counts the time it takes for Earth to orbit the sun once in a year. Similarly, the lunar calendar also counts the time it takes for Earth to orbit the sun, but the difference is that it counts the length of time it takes for the moon to orbit around Earth as a month while counting the time it takes for Earth to orbit around the sun at the same time. Hence, there is no specific day to this holiday because it is based on the lunar calendar, not the solar calendar. For example, in the year of 2020, Lunar New Year occurred on January 25, 2020. Yet, this year – the year of 2021 – it will occur on February 12, 2021.

For every lunar year, there is one of the 12 zodiac animals on the lunar calendar to symbolize it. The zodiac animals include rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig in that order. The way they are ordered is based on a legend saying the Yellow Emperor of China put these 12 animals into a Great Race. Rat is the first one to cross the finish line due to its small size and cleverness, ox finished second due to its persistence, tiger finished third due to its stealth, and so on and so forth.

The Chinese Zodiacs routines yearly when a new lunar year begins. This year, the Chinese zodiac will be an ox.

On Lunar New Year Eve, families gather together and have a wonderful “reunion”. Families, relatives, and friends sit together and have a delicious, large meal consisting of fish, dumplings, spring rolls, noodles, and much more. The kids laugh, smile, and eat vigorously, as they ask for more and more til they are full. Those meals usually take place right at home. Yet, they may also be set up in a big family room at Chinese restaurants.

During Lunar New Year, people decorate and hang anything that is red.  Families hang red lanterns throughout the neighborhood, while the children write “Happy New Year” on a red sheet of paper and hang them around the door. Red in China symbolizes luck, joy, and happiness. It was believed that the color red wears off evils and welcomes jolly spirits to the new year. On the other hand, the one color that is not commonly seen during this traditional holiday is the color black. This is because black symbolizes “bad luck”, evil, cruelty, and sadness in China. Since people want to expel the evil when a new year comes, families and neighbors use the color red to wear them off. Thereby, the whole neighborhood is occupied with some people decorating their houses, some setting up fireworks and firecrackers, and some engaging in saying “Happy New Year” to one another and wishing everyone “Good Luck” for the year to come.

In addition, the most important tradition in lunar new year is kind of like Santa Claus giving presents to kids at Christmas in America. Yet, instead of receiving presents, children receive red envelopes with money inside from their families and relatives! These red envelopes are what we called “HongBao”. It is red because the color “red” symbolizes “Good Luck” in China. Thus, by giving red envelopes to their kids, parents are saying “Good Luck” to them and wishing them to be successful in their studies and future lives.

Besides China, multiple countries and regions in Asia celebrate Lunar New Year, such as Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. It is a tradition they observe from generation to generation, all wishing a good start of a new year.

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