The Lunar New Year, most commonly associated with the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, occurs annually and typically falls sometime between January 21 and February 20.
This year, in 2021, the Lunar New Year is on February 12, and it’s the Year of the Ox! 🧧
What is the Lunar New Year?
A Lunar New Year marks the first new moon of the lunisolar calendars, which are traditional to many east Asian countries such as China and Vietnam. These calendars are regulated by the cycles of the moon and sun. A lunar year – 12 full cycles of the moon – is roughly 354 days, as opposed to a solar year which lasts for 365 days.
A 15 day celebration begins in China on New Year’s Eve, with a family feast called a ‘reunion dinner’ full of traditional LNY foods, and culminates with the Lantern Festival.
It is known as a time of family gatherings, new beginnings, good fortune, happiness and health.
The Lunar New Year is also known as the Spring Festival. During this time there is a weeklong holiday in the People’s Republic of China. Ahead of that holiday comes a busy travel period, known as Chunyun, in which millions of people journey from home to celebrate the new year with their extended families.
How is it celebrated?
Red pockets of money
Arising from of a tradition of using coins as a gift to ward off evil spirits, these pockets of money are traditionally gifted from an elder or parent to children, or anyone who’s unmarried. These are known as ‘lì xì’ in Vietnamese, or ‘hóngbāo’ in Mandarin.
Upside-down 福 character
The calligraphy character fú, which means good luck, can be found on red diamond squares, which are hung upside down for Lunar New Year. By hanging the character upside-down it symbolises that good luck is arriving, or pouring down on you.
The lion dance and dragon dance
Part of traditional Lunar New Year parades are the lion and dragon dances. A Lion Dance typically features two performers inside the costume, operating as the creature’s front and back legs. The Dragon Dance compromises of visible puppeteers holding poles, who make the dragon move in a flowing motion. Its purpose is to send away evil spirits.
Firecrackers and fireworks
Firecrackers and fireworks are often set off throughout Lunar New Year, in celebration but also to ward off an ancient monster called Nian. The legend of Nian is a hideous beast believed to feast on human flesh on New Year’s day. Because Nian feared the colour red, loud noises and fire, people would paste red decorations to their doors, burn lanterns all night long, and frighten the beast away with their firecrackers and fireworks.
Taboos and superstitions
Attracting good fortune into the next year is a major theme of the holiday, and so is protecting against bad fortune…
- Happy, healthy conversation and environments – no crying or arguments! 😢
- Clear your debts before the new year begins 💳
- Avoid scissors! It’s not the time for a new haircut. In a time of family togetherness and celebrating fortune, it’s taboo because it’s believed that you’ll be severing those connections ✂️
- Try to avoid wearing colours of mourning – black and white. Red is favoured to bring you good luck 🟥
- Take a break from the housework and avoid sweeping, or you’ll be brushing away accrued wealth and luck 🧹
Library events of the past
Chinese wishing trees, money trees, and hong bao trees are an important part of Chinese New Year celebrations. Every year, billions of people around the world gather to toss their red ribbons up into the wishing tree, hoping that it will stick and their wish will come true for good fortune in the coming year.
In past years we have put our cherry blossom branch on display, and invited our students to share their wishes for the new year. These are written on red card and hung on our makeshift tree.
As this year we are unable to partake in this tradition, we would like to invite our staff and students to share their wishes on our virtual tree…