Everything You Need to Know About the Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year, known as “Spring Festival” in China and sometimes referred to as “Chinese New Year” in the US, is one of the most widely celebrated holidays on earth. The beginning of the new year according to the Chinese lunar calendar is marked by family gatherings, gifts and delicious food.

When is Lunar New Year?

This year, celebrants celebrate the Year of the Tiger on February 1st, with the holiday season running until February 15th. The date of the Lunar New Year changes every year, but it usually falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice. (It’s a bit more complicated, but I won’t bore you with how the extra months needed for the Chinese lunisolar calendar can affect the date.)

How is the Lunar New Year celebrated ?

Although the celebration of the New Year originated in China as early as 1600 BC, it is now celebrated in Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Mongolia, Tibet and other countries. Like any widely celebrated holiday, the Chinese New Year celebration is a mix of new and old customs and traditions that can vary greatly from place to place and family to family. But in China, the first day of the new year is traditionally celebrated with family reunions, food, gifts and fireworks.

  • Family bonding: Reunion with relatives is such an important part of the Lunar New Year that it triggers the largest human migration on the planet. In the days leading up to COVID, there were about three billion trips a year during the holiday month. Almost everyone travels to see their families, so Thanksgiving Eve in the US seems like nothing.
  • Reunion Dinner : Families traditionally celebrate the New Year with a feast called “reunion dinner”, considered by many to be the most important meal of the year. The most common dishes are dumplings (it is believed that they bring wealth) and fish (because its name in Chinese sounds like “surplus”). Rice wine and other spirits are also common because it’s not a holiday if no one gets drunk.
  • Gifts : The most common Lunar New Year gift is money, usually in a red envelope. Red is the predominant color of the Lunar New Year because it is believed to bring good luck. Speaking of luck, if you’re giving away profits for the new year, make sure it’s an even number, preferably ending in “8” for maximum luck.
  • Fireworks : Like any good holiday, Chinese New Year is celebrated with explosions. Families traditionally go out before midnight and set off fireworks and firecrackers with everyone to mark the year (and terrorize dogs and cats).

Other Important Days in the Chinese New Year Season

The festive season around the new year used to be celebrated in China for two weeks, but like the twelve days of Christmas, it is now usually compressed into a few important days.

  • World Human Birthday: In China, the seventh day of the lunar calendar year is called “Universal Human Birthday”. This is when everyone adds a year to their age. Since the Chinese also use the Gregorian calendar, everyone has two birthdays a year. I feel left out.
  • Lantern Festival: The end of the New Year’s season is marked by the Lantern Festival, which takes place on the 15th day of the first lunar month. It is celebrated by lighting and watching lanterns, solving riddles written on lanterns, and eating lanterns. Wait, I mean eat Tangyuan, sweet rice balls.

And what about the Chinese zodiac?

The Chinese zodiac is a recurring cycle of 12 years, with each year represented by a different animal, and people are said to embody the traits of the spirit animal of their year of birth. You may be familiar with the Chinese zodiac from napkins in Chinese restaurants.

2022 is the year of the Tiger, a symbol of strength, the expulsion of evil and courage. People born in the years of the Ox and Goat will have the most luck in 2022, where Rats, Snakes, Monkeys, Pigs and Dogs will have to work harder this year than other signs. Rabbits, Dragons, Horses and Roosters can relax; we will have a smooth 2022.

Who is Nian, the Chinese New Year monster?

All good holidays have monsters, and in China, the New Year’s monster is called Nian. The version of the modern legend goes something like this: at the beginning of each year, Nian, often depicted as a flat-faced lion with the body of a dog and protruding teeth, comes out of his lair to feast on people and animals.

Luckily, the monster is afraid of loud noises, fire, and red, so people hang red lanterns and other red decorations on their houses to keep it from getting inside, and light firecrackers to scare it away from the city.

“Nian” also means “year”, so it seems like a symbolic way to drive away the old, monstrous year, to welcome a new, amazing year.

“Lunar New Year” is the least bad name for this holiday.

We just don’t have a suitable name for the Lunar New Year. The old name in English was “Chinese New Year”, but it does not work because, despite the fact that the holiday originated in China, it is celebrated in many other countries. “Lunar New Year” is also not a good name because it is too vague. . There are many holidays that mark the beginning of the lunar calendars, from Diwali to Rosh Hashanah, and each of them can also be called the “Lunar New Year”. The Chinese call it the “Spring Festival”, but we can’t just say that, because in other countries it is called differently. Although whatever you call it, there are dumplings, cash gifts, and a cool monster at the holiday, so he is clearly amazing.


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