The History and Traditions of Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, is a significant holiday in Asia. This event marks the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ends on the first full moon of the lunar calendar, 15 days later.

Lunar New Year’s origins are thousands of years old, and although there is no clear established date, it is believed to have originated in the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC). As with all traditional festivals in China, Lunar New Year has its own myth. One myth is that of Nian, a mythical beast who feasted on human flesh on New Year’s Day. Because Nian feared the colour red, loud noises, and fire, it became a tradition for families to plaster red paper decorations on their doors, light lanterns that burned all night, and light firecrackers to frighten the beast away.

Approximately 10 days before the beginning of the new lunar year, a thorough “spring clean” will happen in every household to remove any bad luck that may have accumulated throughout the year. Houses will be decorated in red—red lanterns, red couplets, and the infamous upside fu (福). Lunar New Year is a time for families to celebrate together, and on New Year’s Eve, a “reunion dinner” will be held. Traditionally, on New Year’s Day, family members will receive red envelopes containing money. The vibrant red of the red envelopes symbolize good luck and prosperity in many East Asian cultures. The 15-day duration of the holiday is celebrated with dances, fireworks, and visits to relatives. On the last day, the Lantern Festival is held.

The Lantern Festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month of the lunar calendar. This holiday is celebrated by lighting up colourful lanterns and eating traditional food such as tangyuan (a glutinous rice ball, usually filled with sesame), fagao (fortune cake), and yusheng (raw fish and vegetable salad).

Happy Year of the Ox, and I wish everyone prosperity and good health!

Written by Cady Liu

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