While we’re used to ringing in New Year’s every January 1, not every new year celebration is celebrated annually on the exact same date. For Lunar New Year — also known as the Spring Festival — the date changes every year depending on when the new moon arrives. In general, the start date of the celebration falls between January 21 and February 20 to mark the turn of the lunisolar calendar. This year, the Lunar New Year festivities begin on February 16!
Each new year is represented by one of the 12 different Chinese zodiac animals — with 2018 welcoming the Year of the Dog. For those of you who are super into astrology, you may be excited to know that the animal of your birth year is thought to be a representation of your own personality traits.
Lunar New Year is a global celebration of both new and centuries-old family traditions. With so many people heading home to spend time with their families, this major holiday is known to be the largest annual mass human migration in the world.
Festivities traditionally begin the night before the start of the new year and continue until the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first calendar month. During this final night, kids go out to temples to release paper lanterns — which are almost always red as a symbol of good fortune — into the sky in hopes of good luck and blessings. This is a tradition that dates back to the refugees of the Qing Dynasty in 1636. Riddles are also written on these lanterns for children to solve as an activity. What a fun way to practice problem-solving skills!
But the most important event of all is the annual family reunion dinner that is held at home on the night of Lunar New Year’s Eve. Families travel from far distances to reunite with their loved ones for the biggest dinner of the year.
In Northern China, many enjoy dumplings at midnight, which are symbol of wealth because of their purse shapes. In the South, people bake new year’s cakes and send pieces of them as gifts to friends and families in the coming days.
Fireworks are also a part of the festivities and are launched at midnight as a way to ward off evil. You could say it’s an annual competition though, as it is believed that the person who launches the first firework of the new year will be rewarded with good luck!
Following this is Shou Sui — a tradition that means “after the New Year’s Eve dinner” because families will often stay awake through the night.
The first day of Lunar New Year is about honoring and visiting the elders in the family. Red envelopes or packets are given to kids by elders. They are always filled with money as a way to fight off the evil spirit. However, the amount of money given is important to be wary of, as it should always be an even number, with “8” being considered very lucky.
Cleaning the house is an activity that is also a part of the celebrations. It signifies removing the old from your home and welcoming the new. Once the cleaning is complete, families will proceed to decorate their houses in red to welcome the new year and bring in good luck.
To purchase new year’s decorations and goods, people will visit temporary markets that are set up to sell these specific products. The markets are usually lined up with lanterns in anticipation of the Lantern Festival on the final night.
And Lunar New Year isn’t just limited to China. From London to the Philippines, Hong Kong and even Disneyland, this holiday is honored worldwide, representing one of the oldest cultural traditions.
I think it’s safe to say that Lunar New Year is one of the most magical celebrations on the planet!