When there's a discussion about holiday season in the USA, holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas are typically counted in. In fact, there are several holidays that come between Thanksgiving and New Year's, and they’re celebrated with equal conviction and love. However, as soon as the New Year's ends, the mentality is to get back to work and become serious again.
Do you know that shortly after New Years, there's another holiday waiting that brings all the family members together and springs hope inside them like no other? In most Asian countries, there are traditions associated with the Lunar New Year which falls sometime between 20th January and 21st February. Some people relate this tradition with the Chinese New Year Spring Festival (CNY) as well!
This year, the Lunar New Year is starting on February 12th and, according to the Chinese Zodiac animal, this is going to be the year of the Ox.
Do you ever wonder why it's called the Lunar New Year? Basically, it's the first right of new moon of the lunisolar calendars – a tradition observed in China, South Korea and Vietnam. It is apparently regulated by the cycle of moon and the sun.
The New York Times explains it as a solar year, which is the amount of time it takes the earth to orbit around the sun. It takes the earth roughly 365 days to orbit around the sun, making it a lunar year and giving us 12 lunar moon as the byproduct. However, an addition of one more year is made to stay as close to the solar year as possible. And that is exactly the reason why New Year comes on a different day every year despite being on the same date of the month.
In China, there's a proper celebration of 15 days right after New Year’s Eve. The celebrations begin with a celebratory dinner and end with the Lantern festival. The time is usually spent cherishing the family bond and become stronger than before. The overarching theme in the Asian families, the collectivism, is on full swing. People wish for good fortune and happiness. There's also a special prayer made for the sick members of the family.
There’s a common misconception that New Years is only observed in China. On the contrary, countries that celebrate this tradition are spread all over the globe. This includes the famous territories of Asia like Singapore. In Vietnam, the lunar celebrations are known as Tết. Basically, there might be unique names to the same tradition. In the US and other parts of the world, the celebrations are known as Chinese New Year.
In America, it gained popularity due to presence of the Asian American community which continues to increase every year.
Maasbach explains the celebration hilariously:"It's kind of like that old Friends joke, 'In China, they just call it 'food'; in Chinese, it's just the New Year."
Here are some of the common traditions celebrated on lunar year:
In China, money is gifted to young children by their parents and elders in the family. Basically, the money is given to anyone who is unmarried. It’s almost like the eidi tradition celebrated by Muslims around the world on Eid. The idea is to have fun – and you know what? If a person is unmarried even at 40, he gets to enjoy these red pockets of money! Way to go!
The red envelopes and coins are gifted due to the age old tradition that supports the notion that it helps ward off the evil eye and spirits. This is the time for children to have fun and collect money for investment.
Fireworks are anyway part of the New Year’s traditions throughout the world. They’re a sight to behold—as long as they’re done safely. On Lunar New Year, they are cracked to ward off the ancient monster called Nian. Some people choose to keep it non-fiery as they use confetti canons instead.
There are several myths attached to the lunar year. For example, some people say that you must pay off all your debts before the New Year begins, otherwise it could be bad luck for you. Some say that you should not cut your hair on the lunar year. In fact, they believe that you should entirely put away scissors from your sight. Asians get extremely conscious and try to avoid all signs of scissors as the lunar year approaches. And, as you know, there are several taboos in the Asian community and you must not ask why.
Furthermore, people say that you should not wear black or white at this time of the year, as these colors are only for mourning. Therefore, to attract more luck, you must wear red. There’s another suggestion that makes no sense at all: Apparently, you shouldn’t do your laundry on the first and second day of the year, as they are the birthday of Shuishen, who is the Water God. In fact, they go way overboard and claim that you should also not wash your hair as it might wash away your fortune.
Of course, lunar year is going to be much different in 2021 due to the ongoing pandemic. The celebrations will not be the same in the US and Asia, as they were in Ash Wednesday 2019 or 2020. For example, Hong Kong is struck with the fourth wave of the virus, whereas San Francisco has canceled all the festivities that were there last year. So, no more parade (at least this year).
These are tough times that we’re living in, so make sure you say a prayer for the betterment of the world while celebrating lunar year.
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Check this space to find out more celebrations that are special this year, like the Lunar New Year falls on 12th February 2021!