Lunar New Year is a time-honored festival celebrated by multiple countries in Asia, and it is increasingly popular in some Western countries.
More than 1.5 billion people celebrate Lunar New Year each year with colorful traditions and activities to welcome a new year and wish for luck and prosperity.
What is Lunar New Year?
Lunar New Year is a festival that marks the first new moon of a lunar or lunisolar calendar, which is synchronized with the cycles of the moon. It is a time to bid farewell to the old year and usher in a new year, and it is also a time for family gatherings. It is one of the most important holidays of the year in many countries!
Lunar New Year generally takes place between late January and mid-February in China and other Asian countries that are influenced by Chinese culture, such as South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
In 2022, Lunar New Year will fall on February 1st, 2022.
The celebrations last from 3 days to 16 days and are full of typical traditions and cultural customs.
Lunar New Year vs Chinese New Year
Lunar New Year is often used as a name for Chinese New Year. That’s not wrong in China. But Lunar New Year isn't exactly the same as Chinese New Year elsewhere or in different cultures.
In China, 'Chinese New Year' and 'Lunar New Year' are the same thing in mainstream culture. However, the term 'Lunar New Year' is more widely used in other countries. There are two major differences between the terms:
1. “Lunar New Year” can be on different dates to Chinese New Year, which is the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar (which is, in fact, a lunisolar calendar). Lunar New Year on a non-Chinese-origin calendar can be on a completely different date, such as in the Islamic calendar, which is a true lunar calendar. For example, Chinese New Year 2022 will fall on February 1st, while Islamic New Year 2022 will fall on July 30!
2. Lunar New Year has different names in countries outside of China and Chinese culture. Even in places that celebrate a new year holiday according to the traditional Chinese calendar, it might be referred to as ‘traditional New Year’rather than 'Chinese New Year', or the country's name plus “New Year”, such as Korean New Year and Vietnamese New Year.
Who Celebrates Lunar New Year?
Lunar New Year is traditionally celebrated in East Asian countries especially in China and others influenced by Chinese culture like Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. It is also celebrated where Chinese communities and those countries’ overseas communities can be found.
Lunar New Year may be called different names in different East Asian countries and communities, but it is usually celebrated on the same date with similar celebrations.
In China, Lunar New Year is known as Chinese New Year or in Chinese ‘Spring Festival’(Chunjie). The celebrations traditionally last for 16 days, beginning on New Year's Eve and ending with the Lantern Festival. The main Chinese New Year activities include putting up decorations, eating reunion dinner, setting off firecrackers and fireworks, and giving red envelopes and other gifts. Traditional Chinese New Year food includes dumplings, rice cake, and fish.
In Tibet, local people celebrate the Tibetan New Year, Losar in Tibetan, instead of the Chinese New Year. Losar begins on the first day of the Tibetan year. The Tibetan calendar is lunisolar and almost identical to the Chinese calendar. Tibetan New Year is usually the same date as Chinese New Year, a day earlier, or a day later. But sometimes it occurs a month later than Chinese New Year.
Vietnamese Lunar New Year is called Tet (or Tet Nguyen Dan). It is a three-day holiday but people in Vietnam often spend nearly half a month celebrating the festival.
Deeply influenced by Chinese culture, Vietnamese New Year is quite similar to Chinese New Year, but still has some differences. Vietnamese zodiac signs include the Cat instead of the Rabbit. Vietnamese people have their own traditional cake (bánh chưng) and traditional New Year foods: nem(salad rolls), xôi(sticky rice), canhmăng (bamboo shoot soup), giò(spring rolls)…
Vietnamese decorate their houses with hoađào (peach blossom trees) or hoamai (yellow Mai flower, a type of tree with yellow flowers). They don’t usually use red lanterns or paper cuttings as the Chinese do.
In South Korea, Lunar New Year is called Seollal. The 3-day festival centers on family reunions, food, and venerating their ancestors. During the festival, many Koreans wear traditional Korean clothing called hanbok, perform ancestral rites, worship elders, and eat traditional food such as tteokguk (soup with sliced rice cakes) and jeon(pancakes).
Thais have two Lunar New Years, Chinese New Year in January or February, and the Songkran or Thai New Year in April.
While Chinese New Year is not an official national holiday in Thailand, it is in four provinces (Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala, and Satun). It is widely celebrated all across Thailand, especially in areas with large populations of Chinese, such as Bangkok.
Thailand has its own calendar and Songkran is Thai New Year. It is celebrated on April 13th every year and usually lasts three days. It’s a water splashing festival. All the ceremonies include water. The country turns into one joyous water fight.
Japan used to celebrate Lunar New Year according to the traditional lunar calendar. However, during the Meiji Era (1868–1912), the Japanese government adopted the Gregorian calendar with New Year beginning on January 1.
Although Chinese New Year isn’t a holiday in Japan, celebration activities still can be seen in Chinatowns.
South Asia and the Middle East
In South Asia, Muslim and HinduLunar New Yearobservances are based on their local lunar calendars. The two most common lunar calendar observances in India are Diwali and GudiPadwa (Lunar New Year).
In the Middle East, there are different Lunar New Year periods according to the Hebrew calendar and Islamic calendars.
The Origin of Lunar New Year
Lunar New Year has enjoyed a history of about 3,500 years. Its history can be traced back to the Shang Dynasty when people created a name for the “New Year monster” Nian (which sounds the same as the word for ‘year’). They had rituals for offering sacrifices to their ancestors and various gods in order to pray for a hearty harvest in the new agrarian cycle.
A very old legend about Lunar New Year is still popular even today. A monster named Nian would attack villagers at the beginning of each new year. In order to chase the beast away, people used loud noises, fire, and the color red. Celebrations with these elements have been preserved to this day.
See detailed information about the origin and history of the Lunar New Year.
Lunar New Year Date and Calendar
As the lunar calendar is coordinated by the cycles of the moon and sun, it falls within the second lunar-month-long period after the winter solstice: from January 21 to February 20.
The Lunar New Year celebrations take place over multiple days, sometimes up to 15 days, from the first new moon of the lunar calendar to the first full moon of the lunar calendar.
Lunar New Year 2022 falls on February 1st in the Orient.
In China, people will enjoy a 7-day holiday from January 31st to February 6th in 2022. But the celebrations will last for 15 days from New Year's Eve on January 31st to the Lantern Festival on February 15th.
In Korea, the holiday lasts three days: the day of the lunar New Year, the day before, and the day after.
In Vietnam, most Vietnamese people will have five days off for Tet. Tet celebrations can range from 3 days to one week. The main festivities are on the day before New Year's Eve, New Year's Eve, and New Year’s Day.
In Thailand, Lunar New Year is not an official national holiday, and it is a holiday in four provinces only (Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala, and Satun).
Lunar New Year Animals Signs
Every Lunar New Year ushers in a new animal-signed year from the Chinese zodiac cycle. The Chinese zodiac has had a great impact on several Asian countries. The zodiac signs in most countries are identical to the Chinese ones, but a few of the animals differ in some countries.
The Chinese zodiac is based on a 12-year cycle. The 12 zodiac animals in order are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. These animal signs are exactly the same in South Korea, North Korea, and Singapore.
The Vietnamese zodiac resembles the Chinese zodiac except that the second animal is the Buffalo instead of the Ox, and the fourth animal is the Cat instead of the Rabbit.
In the Thai zodiac, there is no Dragon but rather a Naga (a mythical monster that looks like a giant snake).
Japan's zodiac signs were directly derived from China's. The only difference is that the last animal is the Boar in Japan instead of the Pig in China. See more information about animals signs in Asian countries.
2022 is the year of the Tiger. According to Chinese astrologers, people born in a year of the Tiger are brave, competitive, unpredictable, and confident. Recent Years of the Tiger are 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, and 2010.
Animal signs of recent/upcoming years:
|Year||Date of Lunar New Year||Animal Sign|
|2023||January 22nd||Rabbit in China; Cat in Vietnam|
Lunar New Year Traditions and Customs
Lunar New Year is a festival rich in traditions and customs. There are different traditions in different countries. Here are some that are popular in most countries.
Sweeping of the Home
People clean their houses from top to bottom days before the Lunar New Year. It is believed this will sweep away any misfortune and bad luck. They don't clean their houses on New Year’s Day, otherwise, it is believed their good luck will be swept away.
The most important part of the Lunar New Year celebrations is the reunion dinner on New Year's Eve. Each year, millions of people travel a long way to go back home to reunite with their families.
Celebrating with Red Decorations
Red is regarded as a lucky color that wards off evil spirits and brings good luck. Red is found everywhere during Lunar New Year. Red lanterns, red clothes, red couplets, red envelopes, etc.
People have the custom of worshiping their ancestors during Lunar New Year, through which they pray for blessings for their families.
Giving Red Envelopes
Red envelopes or hongbao in Mandarin, lai see in Cantonese,orlìxì in Vietnamesearea popular gift during the period of Lunar New Year. Sending red envelopes is a way to send good wishes and wish luck. Adults give the envelopes to their parents and children, and the elderly give to children.
Eating Lucky Food
No matter whether in China, Vietnam, Korea, or Thailand, food is an important part of the Lunar New Year holiday. People prepare a variety of traditional dishes and desserts that have symbolic meanings. Foods like fish, fruit, and dumplings are more than mere dishes; they're symbols of luck and prosperity. See popular Chinese New Year food.