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Lunar New Year

Dec 29, 2021

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Lunar New Year, Chinese Chunjie, Vietnamese Tet, Korean Solnal, Tibetan Losar, also called Spring Festival, festival typically celebrated in China and other Asian countries that begins with the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ends on the first full moon of the lunar calendar, 15 days later. The lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon, so the dates of the holiday vary slightly from year to year, beginning some time between January 21 and February 20 according to Western calendars. Approximately 10 days before the beginning of the new lunar year, houses are thoroughly cleaned to remove any bad luck that might be lingering inside, a custom called “sweeping of the grounds.”

Overview
Lunar New Year, Chinese Chunjie, Vietnamese Tet, Korean Solnal, Tibetan Losar, also
called Spring Festival, festival typically celebrated in China and other Asian countries that
begins with the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ends on the first full moon of the lunar
calendar, 15 days later. The lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon, so the dates of
the holiday vary slightly from year to year, beginning some time between January 21 and
February 20 according to Western calendars. Approximately 10 days before the beginning of
the new lunar year, houses are thoroughly cleaned to remove any bad luck that might be
lingering inside, a custom called “sweeping of the grounds.”
Traditionally, New Year’s eve and New Year’s day are reserved for family celebrations,
including religious ceremonies honouring ancestors. Also on New Year’s day, family members
receive red envelopes (lai see) containing small amounts of money. Dances and fireworks are
prevalent throughout the holidays, culminating in the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated on
the last day of the New Year’s celebrations. On this night colourful lanterns light up the houses,
and traditional foods such as yuanxiao (sticky rice balls that symbolize family
unity), fagao (prosperity cake), and yusheng (raw fish and vegetable salad) are served. The
Lunar New Year is celebrated on Friday, February 12, 2021.
The origins of the Lunar New Year festival are thousands of years old and are steeped
in legends. One legend is that of Nian, a hideous beast believed to feast on human flesh on
New Year’s day. Because Nian feared the colour red, loud noises, and fire, red paper
decorations were pasted to doors, lanterns were burned all night, and firecrackers were lit to
frighten the beast away.
What is Lunar New Year?
Lunar New Year is a holiday that marks the start of the new year according to the traditional
Chinese calendar. The holiday begins on the second new moon after the winter solstice and
concludes during the full moon that occurs 15 days later.
Because of its reliance on the lunar phases, the festival falls on different days each year.
Similarly, a rotating cast of 12 zodiac animals are celebrated in accordance with the holiday,
with one animal symbolizing a single year.
Origins of the Holiday
The exact date of the first festival is unknown. However, it likely started during the Shang
Dynasty, China's second dynasty that lasted from approximately 1600 until 1046 BCE. During
the Han Dynasty, a period that took place between 206 BCE and 220 CE, Emperor Wu
established a mid-winter date for this celebration—a designation that remains to this day.
The zodiac
The Chinese Zodiac comprises a dozen animals that represent each of the zodiac cycle's 12
years.
Each animal in the zodiac is connected to a season, direction, and natural element. Along with
traits traditionally associated with each animal (oxen are strong, while tigers are brave, for
example), these classifications are believed to influence our personalities.
Asian New Year Customs
The main Lunar New Year activities include 1) putting up decorations, 2) eating reunion dinner
with family on New Year's Eve, 3) firecrackers and fireworks, and 4) giving red envelopes and
other gifts. These four things are introduced below.
1. New Year Decorations — Lucky Red Items
Every street, building, and house where Spring Festival is celebrated is decorated with red. Red
is the main color for the festival, as red is believed to be an auspicious color.
Most public decoration is done a month before, but home decoration is traditionally done on
New Year's Eve.
2. New Year's Eve — Family Time
Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year) is a time for families to be together. Chinese New
Year's Eve is the most important time. Wherever they are, people are expected to be home to
celebrate the festival with their families.
The Chinese New Year's Eve dinner is called 'reunion dinner', and is believed to be the most
important meal of the year.
3. Firecrackers and Fireworks at Lunar New Year
It has long been a Asian tradition to set off firecrackers from the first minute of their new year.
Fireworks have increasingly been added to the cacophony. From public displays in major cities
to millions of private celebrations in some rural areas, setting off firecrackers and fireworks is an
indispensable festivity.
4. Lunar New Year Gifts and Red Envelopes
Like at Christmas in other countries, people exchange gifts during the Spring Festival. In rural
areas and for older people the New Year gift giving tradition is still strong, but increasingly
younger people prefer just to receive red envelopes (by hand or electronically).
The most common New Year gifts are red envelopes. Red envelopes have money in, and are
believed to bring good luck because they are red. They are given to children and retirees.
Customarily only employers give red envelopes to working adults.
How to Celebrate theLunar New Year
Businesses and public institutions in China take a 7-day Chinese New Year holiday, but those
who need to (like us) will have some staff on duty. However, most large malls, tourist
attractions, public transport, hotels, and restaurants will open as usual, or even stay open
longer! Also see when transport will be overloaded and when local customs are due to happen.
Date (2021)
Transport At Work / What's Open
Feb. 4 – 10 Streets decorated, cleaning, shopping,
Crazy busy:
school holidays from Jan. 27.
Feb. 11 (CNY's Eve) Homes decorated, reunion dinner, firecrackers, CCTV New Year Gala
Better, but locally busy
Most shops closed by the afternoon; businesses close
Feb. 12 (CNY's Day) 12am, dawn, dusk: fireworks, firecrackers; family gifts, red envelopes; greetings
Quiet No offices/banks open; only big malls open
Feb. 13 (CNY day 2) Visiting nearby friends or relatives,
firecrackers for guests and before dinner
Quiet Most govt. offices shut; only big malls open.
Feb. 14 (CNY day 3) Visiting friends and relatives in the city or
friends and family in nearby villages
Locally busy, otherwise okay
Visiting friends and relatives, or
relaxing/traveling / returning to work.
Very busy: more city return journeys
Some businesses reopen a day early.
Feb. 17 (CNY day 6) The public holiday period ends. China
prepares to go back to work.
Very busy: more city return journeys
Feb. 18–26 (CNY days 7–15)
Life returns to normal; schools reopen Feb. 28; decorations up till Lantern Festival (Feb. 26).
Crazy busy: return
travel rush Business as normal by CNY day 8 (Feb. 19).
Lucky foods to eat on Lunar New Year’s Eve
1. Fish — an Increase in Prosperity
In Chinese, "fish" ( Yú /yoo/) sounds like 'surplus'. Fish is a traditional Chinese New Year dish
on the Chinese New Year dinner menu. Chinese people always like to have a surplus at the
end of the year, because they think if they have managed to save something at the end of the
year, then they can make more in the next year.
2. Spring Rolls — Wealth
Spring rolls are a Cantonese dim sum dish of cylindrical-shaped rolls filled with vegetables,
meat, or something sweet. Fillings are wrapped in thin dough wrappers, then fried, when the
spring rolls are given their golden-yellow color.
Sweet Rice Balls — Family Togetherness
Sweet rice ball is the main food for China's Lantern Festival, however, in south China, people
eat them throughout the Spring Festival. The pronunciation and round shape of tangyuan are
associated with reunion and being together. That's why they are favored by the Chinese during
the New Year celebrations.
Longevity noodles unsurprisingly symbolize a wish for longevity. Their length and unsevered
preparation are also symbolic of the eater's life.
It is a lucky food eaten on Chinese New Year Day in North China.
They are longer than normal noodles and uncut, either fried and served on a plate, or boiled and
served in a bowl with their broth.
Good Fortune Fruit — Fullness and Wealth
Eating and displaying tangerines and oranges is believed to bring good luck and fortune due
to their pronunciation, and even writing. The Chinese for orange (and tangerine) is (chéng
/chnng/), which sounds the same as the Chinese for 'success' (). One of the ways of writing
tangerine ( jú /jyoo/) contains the Chinese character for luck ( jí /jee/).
Things NOT to Do on Lunar New Year
1. Doing house chores
Sweeping dirt and dust out of the house and dumping trash are believed to be sweeping away
and dumping good fortune. Washing clothes on the first two days of Lunar New Year is also
considered an offense to the Water God as it’s the god’s birthday.
Do: Make sure your house is tidy before Lunar New Year, so you can rest and celebrate to the
fullest. If you need to sweep dirt and dust, don’t sweep them out through the front door. Instead,
sweep them inward and take them out through the back door.
2. Washing and cutting hair
Don’t: Washing and cutting your hair are like washing away and cutting off your prosperity and
wealth and thus is among the things not to do on Lunar New Year.
Do: It’s great to groom yourself before Lunar New Year, so you look your best from the first day
of the year!
3. Using sharp utensils
Using scissors during the first month is also one of Chinese New Year taboos as it symbolizes
fighting with others.
Do: You might want to prepare everything beforehand if you want to cook up a feast. Or maybe,
go out to enjoy festivities and great meals.
4. Wearing black or white clothes
Don’t: Black and white. The colors that are used in tragic events such as funerals. It isn’t hard
to see why wearing black or white clothes is one of the things not to do on Lunar New Year.
Do: Wear red as it’s a lucky color for the Chinese. It’s bright and brings positive energy.
5. Lending money
Don’t: Letting someone borrow your money is also one of the things not to do on Chinese New
Year. According to Lunar New Year beliefs, more and more borrowers will come to you all
through the year.
Do: In addition to not lending money to others, be sure you return all the money that you owe
before Chinese New Year.
6. Crying
Don’t: Weeping on the first day of Chinese New Year isn’t a good beginning, isn’t it? Chinese
New Year taboos have it that those who cry will be crying throughout the year. Another
foreboding reason is that children’s crying is believed to bring misfortune to the whole family.
Do: Be happy and make sure your loved ones are happy. Smile and wish others a Happy
Chinese New Year. If you have children, avoid punishing them. Yes, even if they’re naughty,
everyone seems to tolerate them during Chinese New Year.
Sources:
https://www.britannica.com/topic/Lunar-New-Year
https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/special-report/chinese-new-
Welcome message from author
The exact date of the first festival is unknown. However, it likely started during the Shang Dynasty, China's second dynasty that lasted from approximately 1600 until 1046 BCE. During the Han Dynasty, a period that took place between 206 BCE and 220 CE, Emperor Wu established a mid-winter date for this celebration—a designation that remains to this day.