Lunar New Year 2017 is officially starting… This Saturday!
Most people recognize this special celebration as “Chinese New Year.” However, other countries such as Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia take part in this wonderful celebration. The festivities also take place in other countries such as America, Canada and Australia. The United States has been celebrating Lunar New Year for over a century and for those residing in San Francisco or New York City, Saturday, January 28th will be a school holiday.
Today we’re going to discuss how some Asian countries celebrate their Lunar New Year.
Chinese New Year is celebrated for 16 days—from New Year’s Eve to Lantern Festival. Here are some highlights of this wide celebration:
- Pre-New Year’s Eve: They clean the house. This represents putting away old things, bidding farewell to the old year, and welcoming the New Year. Then they shop and spend a generous amount of money.
- New Year’s Eve: In the morning, they put up bright decorations. Red lanterns, Chinese couplets as well as paintings of flowers and birds are common. At night, there is an extravagant dinner consisting of dumplings (more popular in northern China), rice cake, congee, etc. After dinner, parents usually give their children red envelopes that include money in order to wish them health and good studies in the new year.
- New Year’s Day: They set off fireworks and firecrackers! Although firecrackers are banned in main cities such as Beijing and Shanghai due to danger, fireworks are allowed. The younger generation visits the elders as well as pay respect to their ancestors.
- New Year’s Day 2: Married daughters visit their parents.
- New Year’s Days 3-7: They visit friends and relatives. They also sweep the house as cleaning the house on the first two days represents sweeping away good luck.
- New Year’s Day 8: Eight is a lucky number in China, so most businesses reopen on this day and people start returning back to work.
- New Year’s Day 15: This is when the Lantern Festival happens—people lift glowing lanterns into the sky while some let it float over the sea or let them roam in lakes.
Taiwan celebrates New Year similarly to how China celebrates. However, a couple outstanding Taiwanese festivities exist such as Bombarding Master Handan Festival (Taitung) and Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival (Tainan). At the Bombarding Master Handan Festival, a man will perform in the role of the Master Han Dan, a god of wealth. He will wear a red short pant, hold a bamboo fan to cover his face, stand on a chair, and be carried around by four people. Then, because people believed that this god cannot tolerate the cold, they will throw firecrackers at the man and pray for wealth. At the Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival, people would visit Yanshui Wu Temple in Tainan City with firecrackers inside.
In Vietnam, “Tet”—aka their Lunar New Year—is considered to be one of their most widely celebrated holidays. It is an occasion for family gatherings and practicing ancestor worship, as well as giving money to children and the elderly. Vietnamese people are known to eat similar foods everyday consisting of rice and meat or a bowl of soup—which matches their thrifty spending habits. However, during Tet, Vietnamese people tend to eat more of a wide variety of foods, such as Banh Chung, a steamed square cake made of rice, mung bean and pork. They are covered by green banana leaves, which represents the Earth. They also prepare Thit Ga, which is a boiled whole chicken as a tribute to their ancestors.
Lunar New Year is one of the most celebrated holidays in Korea. Referred to as “Seollal” (설날), most Koreans observe the day before New Year, the day of New Year as well as the day after New Year. Koreans eat tteokguk (rice cake soup) as the first meal of the day in celebration of a new beginning and with hopes of good health and luck. After a filling meal, Koreans pay respects to their ancestors, but it is also an opportunity to catch up with family members. During Seollal, Koreans usually wear hanbok—traditional clothes. They also gather around to play folk games and eat more food, which can be a variety of dishes ranging from gal-bi (ribs), japchae (glass noodles) and of course, side dishes such as kimchi!
Of course, like we mentioned earlier, there are other Asian countries that celebrate Lunar New Year. Some even have an entirely different date to celebrate. This year, Tibet and Mongolia New Year’s Days will be celebrated on February 27. Nepal, Myanmar/Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, and Thailand’s New Year’s Days will be celebrated in April.
If we missed your country, please let us know down below what you do to celebrate Lunar New Year!
With lots of love,
Jenny from Cupidrop