Chinese Lunar New Year


The Chinese Lunar year is a fantastic holiday that encompasses several traditions. First, let’s talk about the calendar. Unlike the western calendar with fixed dates, the lunar calendar is based on the cycle of the moon and Earth’s course around the sun. Usually, New Year’s falls sometime in January or February. For example, 2019’s New Year was on February 5th, and for 2020, January 25th.

There are twelve Chinese zodiacs total, all of which are animals. The zodiacs each have assigned years and run in a sequence. Every twelve years, the zodiacs are repeated. The zodiac for 2020 is the mouse. What year were you born? Chinese tradition believes a certain year is your luckiest year if the animal of that given year is the same as the year when you were born. When you are 12, 24, 36, 48, etc. years old, your family will also host big birthday celebrations for you.

To celebrate the New Year, people can get anywhere from seven days up to a month off from school or work. The biggest celebration starts the day before Lunar January 1st. That afternoon, families will start putting up new Spring Festival couplets on their door. These couplets are red pieces of paper that have Chinese blessings either written in black or gold. Families will also hang other red color decorations around their home. Chinese love the color red. It symbolizes good luck, which is the perfect new year theme.

Similar to Western culture, many people stay awake until midnight to witness the new year with family and watch fireworks. It is believed that the loud sounds of firecrackers drive away evil and welcome the new year.

On the first day of the New Year, my family usually visits our father’s side of family. We have huge meals and one main dish, which are dumplings. My family used to put a coin in one of the dumplings to see who would be the luckiest person in the coming year. Young generations who are still in school will receive red envelops from the older generations for good luck and blessings. There is usually money in the envelopes. It is customary to receive the red envelopes with two hands to show the respect to the elder. You can say “Gong xi fa cai” (恭喜发财), which means “may you attain greater wealth” to show your appreciation and to share the good luck. 

On the second day, we usually visit our mother’s side of family. Then, visit other relatives during the following days. For some families, since everyone has different schedules, the Lunar New Year is the only time families may see each other. It is truly a time for family gathering and tons of fun. I wish you a Happy Chinese Lunar New Year! “Xin nian kuai le!” (新年快乐