What is Chinese New Year?
Asia Celebrates the Lunar New Year as Biggest Holiday
Lunar New Year, Chinese New Year, Spring Festival, Tết -- these are just a few of the names given to the celebration of new beginnings that focuses on togetherness, family, and blessings for the new year.
From fireworks and lion dances to the color red, the Lunar New Year is celebrated as Asia’s biggest holiday.
While the western world is only beginning to celebrate Lunar New Year, the holiday rates as a big deal in China, Vietnam, Singapore, Korea, and Malaysia – much like Christmas does in the west.
Millions make their way home to be with their families during the 40-day period between January 10 and February 18. Celebrations revolve around the lunar calendar, a system based on the monthly cycles of the moon’s phases. This year, the new moon will appear on January 22, 2023, ringing in the “Year of the Rabbit” in most Asian countries except for Vietnam, which will celebrate the “Year of the Cat.”
While festivities vary in different Asian countries, a traditional Chinese celebration pulses with red and gold colors, firecrackers, and a lion dance.
Festivities steeped in symbols and myth
The colors red and gold symbolize good luck, joy, and happiness. During the Lunar New Year festivities, these colors are used in decoration and gift-giving. Children and elders receive beautifully embellished red envelopes containing “lucky” money as part of the tradition as a symbol of prosperity.
Firecrackers and vibrant lion dances have been part of the festival since ancient times, perhaps in response to the myth of Nian. According to this myth, a monster named Nian would rise from the surface of the ocean once a year to eat animals and humans. People in the villages would hide from the beast, but one day discovered the monster was afraid of loud noises – and the color red. So, people in the village lit firecrackers and covered their doorways in red to scare off the monster. The lion dance, apparently, is performed each new moon cycle to chase away evil spirits and bring prosperity. Modern celebrations use these traditions as a way to connect with each other.
Food plays a big part in the celebrations in different Asian countries and it has meaning. The Chinese eat whole fish for prosperity and always have a surplus. Dumplings and spring rolls symbolize wealth. Glutinous rice cakes symbolize attaining new heights. Sweet rice balls are associated with reunion and family togetherness. Noodles are known for longevity. Fruits such as pomelo, tangerines, and oranges symbolize success and achievement. Fortune candies symbolize wealth, happiness, and luck.
Vietnamese people celebrate Tết by making and eating bánh chưng and bánh tét - sticky rice cakes filled with mung bean and pork. The sweet or savory cakes are wrapped in dong leaves for humility and resourcefulness. Bánh chưng are square in shape representing the earth and bánh tét are cylindrical representing the sky.
South Koreans celebrate Seollal by making and eating tteokguk, a rice cake soup with julienned eggs, seaweed, meat, and sesame oil. The white tteok, or rice cake, signifies purity and is eaten at the start of the new year for good fortune. The oval-shaped sliced rice cakes resemble coins, which symbolizes prosperity.
In fact, the Lunar New Year looks a bit different from country to country in Asia, even though the holiday follows the Chinese calendar.
The Chinese focus on purging the bad or old to welcome the good fortune and the new. In the days before the new year, people clean their homes to get rid of dirt, clutter, and unwanted items believed to trap negative energy. They’ll redecorate with red couplets, new furniture, red lanterns, and flower pots to welcome the Gods of wealth.
The New Year is a special time to reunite, and families gather around large tables to enjoy New Year’s Eve dinner, or Nian Ye Fan, which is considered the most important dinner of the year. They wear new clothes in the colors red and gold. Families in the north serve dumplings, while those in the south offer more colorful and diverse meals. Most families, however, serve fish as a symbol of plenty.
Gifting red envelopes is a big part of the tradition, and people go to great lengths to wish each other good fortune for the new year.
South Koreans dress in traditional costumes called hanbok and honor their elders with deep bows. Children receive money and words of wisdom. South Koreans enjoy dishes such as dumplings and rice cake soup. For good luck, they fly kites, and for entertainment, play folk games.
Unlike other Asian cultures, South Koreans avoid the color red, as it symbolizes passion. They wear bright colors other than red and give money in white envelopes.
The Vietnamese believe the deceased visit their living family members during their New Year’s celebration. Families clean the shrines, burn incense, and present flowers and fruit.
Vietnamese decorations for the Lunar New Year are among the most impressive. Stunning displays of flowers and orchids are seen everywhere in the cities. People decorate their homes with peach blossom trees, kumquat trees, and orange trees that symbolize fruitfulness and fertility the family hopes to enjoy in the new year.
Vietnam also has its own traditional costume — the áo dài — a silk tunic with slits on either side that's worn over pants by both men and women for the New Year. Families go to the temple to pray for good luck, health, and good fortune.
Like in China, children and elders are gifted with red envelopes that contain money.
Families spend time together and enjoy pork, pickled scallion, rice cakes, and candied fruits.
On New Year’s Day, people set off firecrackers, beat drums, and make loud noises to ward off evil spirits. Not a New Year’s Day goes by without a festive parade, and lion dances happen everywhere.
People in Singapore celebrate with the Chingay Parade, an extravagant celebration that includes giant floats and lion dancers. The largest New Year festival in Singapore is the River Hongbao, which is hosted in different venues across the country each year.
Like in China and other Asian countries, red envelopes containing money are given, and incense is lit for ancestors.
Food is also a big part of the celebration, and people enjoy a variety of treats such as pineapple tarts, sticky rice cakes, and yusheng, which is a traditional raw fish salad that’s eaten only during the holiday.
Like most Asian countries, people in Malaysia ward off evil spirits with firecrackers and celebrate with lion dances in the streets to bring good fortune. They also enjoy family reunions around a large feast and give out red packets called ang pow as a blessing. But what’s unique about the Lunar New Year’s celebrations in Malaysia (and Singapore), is the practice of eating yee sang and tossing it into the air while loudly declaring auspicious wishes.
Unlike other Asian countries, Taiwan organizes very few events during this holiday, although the holiday is deemed to be important. Some locals will go to temple in hopes of being one of the first to pray to the Gods at the stroke of midnight, while others visit the temple on New Year’s Day.
Most Taiwanese people celebrate by spending time with their family in their homes enjoying holiday food such as dumplings and pineapple.
Many neighborhoods set off fireworks displays, and people exchange red envelopes.
Families get together for a midnight feast to usher in a year of prosperity. The table is full of round-shaped fruits because the round shape symbolizes good fortune. They wear polka dots also to bring good fortune with the round shape.
When the clock strikes midnight, children and adults jump with joy, believing that jumping during this time will make them grow taller.
For the Lunar New Year, they eat sticky rice dishes that are believed to help bind families together. They also eat pancit, or long noodles, for good luck in the new year.
The Year of the Rabbit
The Lunar New Year of 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit in most Asian countries and is predicted to be a year of hope. Those born in 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, 1951, or 1939, after the Lunar New Year (late January or early February) were born in the Year of the Rabbit.
The Chinese zodiac includes 12 different animals: the rat, ox/buffalo, tiger, rabbit (or cat), dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.
The rabbit symbolizes longevity, peace, and prosperity in Chinese culture. The fourth animal in the Chinese zodiac, the rabbit is known to be the luckiest out of all the twelve animals. The rabbit also symbolizes mercy, elegance, and beauty.
Those born in the year of the rabbit are known to be calm, peaceful, vigilant, witty, quick-minded, and ingenious.
Compatible zodiac signs for rabbits include goats, dogs, and pigs.
Famous people born in the Year of the Rabbit are Albert Einstein, Michael Jordan, and David Beckham.
Celebrate the Lunar New Year 2023 in Style with Karma and Luck
The Year of the Rabbit brings prosperity, luck, and new beginnings, It’s a great time to reflect on our spiritual journey and to take the time to connect and feel how the Lunar New Year is affecting our energies.
Our special Lunar New Year Collection will infuse your spirit with a sense of novelty and new perspective, allowing you to remain open to the wonders and opportunities that this year holds.