The Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year is an important holiday to the Eastern and Southeastern Asian countries. This year, the holiday began on Feb. 1 and usually lasts multiple days. This is because Lunar New Year is based on the lunisolar calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar. The lunisolar calendar tracks the phases of the moon and sun. The holiday falls on different days each year. Lunar New Year is celebrated to start the New Year with luck and prosperity. In the lunisolar calendar, each year is represented by one of the zodiac signs as well as one of the five elements. The zodiac signs include rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, pig, and dog. While the five elements include water, fire, earth, metal, and wood. This year is the year of the water tiger, which represents strength and bravery.

Although the holiday is sometimes referred to as Chinese New Year, many cultures celebrate the Lunar New Year. In China, the Lunar New Year is called 春节 or also known as Spring Festival. In Korea, it’s referred to as Seollal (설날) and Vietnamese know it as Tết. 

In China, fish is typically served as the last meal for the New Year to wish for good luck. Rice ball soup, moon-shaped rice cakes, and dumplings are also served to celebrate the beginning of a new year. To finish the New Year, a Lantern festival is held as well as fireworks, parades, and games. 

Many others celebrate it in various ways. “In the Lunar New Year, we (our family) exchange the colors red and blue in our culture. Two, six, and eight are also seen as lucky numbers. However, four is seen as an unlucky number. The number four in Chinese can be misinterpreted as the word die. Which is why if you mispronounce it, it can be very unlucky,” says Eunnie Wu (10). 

Another student also stated how much the holiday means to them.“We normally eat dumplings. We also eat food that represents good fortune,” says Bridget Ponto (11). 

Vietnamese celebrate the New Year by decorating their homes with flowers, such as peach blossoms and orchids, as well as Kumquat trees. A Vietnamese meal for the New Year consists of rice cake filled with mung beans and pork, wrapped in bamboo leaves. Mứt tết is dried fruit and is typically served to the guests.

North and South Koreans eat dishes such as rice cake soup, also known as 떡국, to celebrate Lunar New Year. Money in white envelopes is also given to people. Many Koreans spend the holiday to pay respects to their elders and their past generations. 

It’s important to be culturally knowledgeable, so celebrate the Lunar New Year with fun and respect.