Lunar New Year
February 12th marked Lunar New Year’s Day in 2021. A time of celebration, reflection, and hope for the future, Lunar New Year festivities extend over weeks. Looking to learn more about this holiday and virtual ways you can engage? Read on!
What is Lunar New Year?
Lunar New Year typically occurs in late January or early February, and is the beginning of a calendar year in which months are based on the cycles of the moon. Several countries in East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia celebrate this holiday, with China, Korea, Vietnam, and Japan, being a few.
Chinese New Year, also called Chinese Spring Festival, is the most important holiday in the Chinese culture. The country marks this celebration with one week of official public holidays. The celebration usually lasts for the first fifteen days of the lunar calendar. Typical celebration activities include putting up red decorations, like you will see represented here in your package, as red is believed to an auspicious colour. It can also include having reunion dinner with family and friends, typically with an even number of dishes! Dumplings are also a must-have food on the table. It also common to give red envelopes, as you will find in your package, and many will set off firecrackers and fireworks. The festival signals the beginning of spring and represents the desire for a new life. It is all about spending time with family and sharing blessings and abundance with loved ones.
In Vietnam, the celebration of Lunar New Year starts on December 28th of the Lunar Calendar. That is when the Vietnamese culture believes that all Gods come together to review the year, and prepare for the coming year. This is usually marked by a lot of shopping, as many people will not have work and will celebrate the national holiday in this way. The first three days of Lunar New Year are very important as each day marks a different group to celebrate with. The first day is for family, and families will gather around and enjoy traditional Vietnamese food: sticky rice wrapped around green beans and pork belly. The second day is for visiting friends, and the third day is for giving out red envelopes as a way to wish everyone wealth, health and happiness.
Korean Lunar New Year is also known as Seollal. The celebration is most joyful over three days: the day before Korean New Year, Korean New Year’s Day, and the day after Korean New Year. Koreans will often travel across the country and even overseas to visit their family. During this time, people will perform ancestral rites, wear their traditional clothing, the Hanbok, eat traditional food and play family games. Children will often receive money from their elders after performing a formal bow, typically known as ‘Sebae’. On Korean New Year’s Day, people prepare a feast and spend much of the day with family and friends.
Legends and Traditions
Lunar New Year is steeped in legends and traditions that make the cultural event a celebration for many. We’ve shared a few of the many here:
One such tradition is the thorough cleaning of homes, sometimes called “sweeping of the grounds”, ten days before Lunar New Year’s Day. This tradition contributes to the celebration of good luck for the coming year, and the removal of any bad luck that might have be in the homes prior.
In tandem with this, you can’t sweep the house or throw out any garbage until the 5th day of the New Year. You don’t want to accidentally throw away any good luck!
The Lantern Festival, which happens on the last day of the New Year’s celebrations, is a day when homes put out colourful lanterns. The Festival honours deceased ancestors and is a day for families to reflect and promote peace and reconciliation.
You will see that red and gold are very commonly used colours during Lunar New Year celebrations. This is because red is thought to symbolize happiness, and gold is a representation of wealth and prosperity. Together, the colours mark a wish for a happy and prosperous upcoming year.
Firecrackers are often set off during Lunar New Year celebrations as well. One legend has it that there was a monster named Nian, and it would come about to scare and threaten everyone every New Year’s Eve. Everyone would hide for fear of their life, but one day, a courageous boy fought him off using firecrackers. Everyone celebrated by setting off more firecrackers the following day, and the activity became tradition. Firecrackers are believed to scare off monsters and bad luck.
The Year of The Ox
This Lunar New Year marks the beginning of the Year of the Ox. The Ox is the second animal in the 12-animal cycle which appears in the Chinese zodiac. People born in the Year of the Ox are generally believed to be strong, patient, and trustworthy.
The zodiac is born as a result of a mythological tradition, where legend has it that there was a race held to determine which animals would be part of the 12-year cycle. Towards the end of the race, there was a large and strong river. The Ox, sturdy and capable of making the swim across, was heading into the water when the Rat asked for a ride. The Ox, being good-natured and kind, agreed and allowed the Rat to climb onto its back. However, at the final moment, the Rat jumped off and ahead of the Ox after crossing the river, and so the Rat crossed the finish line first, and the Ox came in second.
Looking to engage with Lunar New Year virtually this year? Sign up for our Lunar New Year at Home celebration kit here, to receive a package of traditional goodies, DIY crafts, and a fresh roll to mark the occasion. We have a limited number of kits, so sign up will be done on a first come first served basis. To get your kit and participate, sign up here.