When human beings speak about the “holiday season” in the U.S., they usually refer to that duration between Thanksgiving dinner and New Year’s Day. But rapidly after that, any other large vacation brings buddies and household collectively in numerous Asian countries, with concurrent events that lift on the traditions stateside. The Lunar New Year, most usually related with the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, commonly falls someday between January 21 and February 20 annually. Lunar New Year 2021 is on February 12, and in phrases of the Chinese zodiac animal, it is the Year of the Ox.
It’s referred to as the Lunar New Year due to the fact it marks the first new moon of the lunisolar calendars standard to many east Asian nations together with China, South Korea, and Vietnam, which are regulated by using the cycles of the moon and sun. As the New York Times explains, “A photo voltaic year—the time it takes Earth to orbit the sun—lasts round 365 days, whilst a lunar year, or 12 full cycles of the Moon, is roughly 354 days.” As with the Jewish lunisolar calendar, “a month is nevertheless described by using the moon, however an greater month is delivered periodically to continue to be shut to the photo voltaic year.” This is why the new 12 months falls on a unique day inside that month-long window every year.
In China, the 15-day social gathering kicks off on New Year’s Eve with a household feast known as a reunion dinner full of typical Lunar New Year foods, and usually ends with the Lantern Festival. “It’s without a doubt a time for new beginnings, and household gathering,” says Nancy Yao Maasbach, president of New York City’s Museum of Chinese in America. Three overarching themes, she says, are “fortune, happiness, and health.”
Here’s what to comprehend about Lunar New Year traditions, and what extra than 1.5 billion humans do to rejoice it.
Lunar New Year isn’t always precisely the equal as Chinese New Year
The Lunar New Year isn’t always solely determined in China, it is celebrated throughout various international locations and different territories in Asia, inclusive of South Korea and Singapore. In Vietnam, Lunar New Year is acknowledged as Tết, and in Tibet it is Losar. In the U.S., though, it is most frequently related with what’s regularly known as Chinese New Year, the American model of China’s 15-day-long festivities.
“It’s been popularized due to the fact the greatest phase of the Asian-American populace in the United States is Chinese,” Maasbach explains. “It’s variety of like that ancient Friends joke, ‘In China, they simply name it ‘food’; in Chinese, it is simply the new year.” But in America, she says, the place the excursion is by and large skilled in the Chinatowns of a number cities, “we simply made it ‘Chinese New Year.'” In Maasbach’s experience, whilst Lunar New Year is the extra inclusive and correct time period as it applies to the excursion worldwide, celebrating is “not as famous with some of these immigrant corporations in America.”
As it is additionally end up famous with human beings of all nationalities who go to Chinatown to devour and watch the parade performances, Maasbach adds, “it’s type of like our stake in the country, if you will, and this is surely a pleasure point.”
Lunar New Year is additionally referred to as Spring Festival.
That title used to be popularized after Communist Party chief Mao Zedong took strength in China in 1949. “The time period was once coined earlier than the Communists, however it was once used appreciably with the aid of the birthday party to substitute ‘the new year,’ due to the fact they tried to get rid of something it’s old—all of the superstitions and religion, together with the celebrations,” says Kian Lam Kho, chef and creator of Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking. During the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to the 12 months Mao died in 1976, the common lion and dragon dances have been additionally a factor of contention, in accordance to History.com.
Nowadays, Kho explains, “in mainland China, nearly anyone refers to the new yr as Spring Festival. But if you are in Hong Kong, Taiwan, or somewhere else in most of the Chinese diaspora, they’re nonetheless calling it ‘new year.'”
Spring Festival is a 7-day holiday in China
There is a weeklong excursion in the People’s Republic of China in the course of Spring Festival; in 2021, the public vacation is February 11-17. Ahead of that vacation comes a bustling journey duration recognized as Chunyun, in which thousands and thousands of humans trek domestic via plane, train, and vehicle to rejoice the new yr with their prolonged families. CNN deemed Chunyun “the biggest human migration on the planet” in advance of the Lunar New Year in January 2020, projecting that three billion journeys would be made (though this was once possibly impacted by way of then-burgeoning pandemic tour restrictions).
“I inform human beings who desire to go to Asia, in general, keep away from Chinese New Year due to the fact you might not be in a position to get anywhere!” laughs Kho.
Lunar New Year traditions encompass the Dragon Dance and the distribution of purple envelopes stuffed with money.
“When you stroll round Chinatown, if you are no longer acquainted with the layers of which means in these festivals, you may additionally omit them,” Maasbach says.
Upside-down fu characters: On Chinese New Year, you may frequently see a calligraphy personality on a rectangular of pink paper, hung in a diamond shape. The character, 福 [fú], which potential excellent luck, is hung upside down for Lunar New Year. “The phrase ‘to arrive,’ or to begin, is a homophone for the phrase for upside down,” Maasbach explains. Through this bit of pictorial wordplay, the image correctly skill that true success is arriving, or pouring down on you.
Red pockets full of money: Known as lì xì in Vietnamese or hóngbāo in Mandarin, in China they’re historically proficient from an elder or father or mother to children, or actually everyone who’s unmarried. “It’s sincerely fun, due to the fact even if your brother is forty and he is single he nonetheless receives purple envelopes,” Maasbach says. The customized arose out of a lifestyle of the usage of cash as a present to ward off evil spirits.
It’s an event for youngsters to have a little exciting when asking for an envelope, too. When asking, “you have to say matters like ‘xin nian kuai le’, or ‘Happy New Year,’ or ‘gong xǐ fā cái’, which skill ‘make cash in the new year’. But it type of has a rhyme,” Maasbach says. “You’ll say, ‘gong xǐ fā cái, hóngbāo ná lái!'” This interprets to, ‘Make a lot of cash in the new year—now provide me my crimson envelope!”
Firecrackers: Firecrackers and fireworks are regularly set off all through Lunar New Year, each to ward off an historical monster referred to as Nian, and due to the fact it is turn out to be a raucous way to celebrate. It’s frequent to see households taking pictures off the equally festive, and non-fiery, confetti cannons on the streets of U.S. Chinatowns on New Year’s Day.
The Lion Dance and Dragon Dance: Traditional dances and gymnastic performances are an interesting section of a Lunar New Year parade. A Lion Dance commonly points two performers internal the costume, running as the creature’s the front and again legs. “It’s supposed to ship away any evil spirits,” Maasbach says. “It’s an chance to feed the lion with crimson envelopes.”
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The Dragon Dance points seen puppeteers protecting poles as they make the dragon pass in a flowing motion. While these two dances are amongst the first-class known, Maasbach says they’re simply a few examples native to precise regions. “China is a very numerous country, with many distinctive practices,” she continues. “The Fan Dance, the Phoenix Dance, the Lion Dance—those are all provincial specialist pieces.”
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Taboos and superstitions entice precise success on Lunar New Year
Again, attracting—and carrying over—good fortune into the subsequent 12 months is a foremost theme of the holiday, and so is defending in opposition to awful fortune. With that comes a lot of superstitious practices, Maasbach says.
“There are a lot of little matters you are supposed to do, and no longer do,” she explains. “You’re no longer supposed to cry, and you are now not supposed to argue—only speak about good, pleased things.” This will set the tone for the future days.
“Pay lower back your money owed earlier than the new 12 months starts,” Massback continues, or it is terrible luck.
Don’t reduce your hair on the Lunar New Year—in fact, remain away from scissors altogether. “My mom would be irate if I reduce some thing with scissors on Lunar New Year,” says Maasbach. In a time of household togetherness and celebrating fortune, it is taboo due to the fact it is believed that you will be severing these connections.
Avoid sporting black or white, as they’re associated with mourning. To appeal to luck, “you have to put on red,” Maasbach says, including that her late grandmother wore purple nearly everyday, due to the fact “she desired the entirety to be happy.”
Don’t do laundry on the first or 2d day of the new year, in accordance to tour website China Highlights, “because these two days are celebrated as the birthday of Shuishen (水神, the Water God).” Avoid washing your hair too, lest you wash your precise fortune away.
Don’t sweep after Lunar New Year’s Eve, the website online adds, or you will be sweeping away amassed wealth and luck.
Several regular Lunar New Year meals additionally lift more that means in China, due to the fact the way they’re stated is a homophone for any other luck-related word. For example, “the pronunciation for ‘fish’ in Mandarin and many different dialects is ‘yú’, which is the identical pronunciation as ‘leftover’,” Kho says. “The thinking is that each and every year, you favor an abundance of meals or wealth, so that you have it left over for the subsequent year.”
Lunar New Year celebrations in 2021 will possibly seem to be different
It stays to be viewed how the coronavirus pandemic will have an effect on Lunar New Year celebrations in the U.S. and in Asia. Hong Kong, which was once in partial lockdown as of December 2020 due to a fourth wave of infections, has canceled their iconic parade and their fireworks for the coming Year of the Ox. San Francisco has canceled their competition and parade as well. It’s additionally doubtful how COVID-19 will affect the each year Chunyun journey rush, if at all (millions of Americans traveled over the 2020 Thanksgiving holiday, towards public fitness recommendations).
The Museum of Chinese in America is keeping a digital MOCA Fest via February that includes Chinese cooking classes, cultural events, and lessons for kids. “I do not assume you will ever see Chinese Americans in the U.S. no longer celebrate,” Maasbach says.