Lunar New Year is upon us. More specifically, farewell to the Year of the Snake and hello Year of the Horse!
Celebrations traditionally start from Lunar New Year’s Eve (today in North America, yesterday throughout Asia), leading into the Lantern Festival which lasts for 15 days; this year, the festival begins on January 31st. The name “Lunar New Year” comes from the Chinese calendar being lunisolar. You can expect parades, family gatherings, fire crackers, lots of delicious (and sometimes unusual) food, and money given to children in small red envelopes.
Despite more commonly known as “Chinese New Year”, Lunar New Year is a multi-culturally celebrated event. Not only is Lunar New Year celebrated in Mainland China (China’s Lunar New Year is the largest movement of people in the world), Hong Kong and Taiwan—and in places with large populations of ethnic Chinese, such as Macau, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines; it is also celebrated in Japan, Korea (referred to as Solnal), Vietnam (Tet), and Tibet (Losar).
Huge Lunar New Year celebrations are also taking place in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, Boston, Toronto and Vancouver, where there are considerably large Chinese, Koreans and Vietnamese diaspora populations . Other cities that celebrate Lunar New Year are Sydney, London, and Paris.
This means there are a number of ways to say “Happy New Year!”
- Cantonese: Gong hey fat choy! and/or San Nihn Faai Lok!
- Mandarin: Xin Nian Kuai Le!
- Korean: Sae Hae Bok Mani Ba Deu Se Yo
- Vietnamese: Chúc mừng năm mới [chook moong numb moi]
For those people who were born under the Year of the Horse (2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954, 1942, 1930), they are said to embody the characteristics that the horse symbolizes in Chinese tradition: a energetic, bright, warm-hearted, and intelligent spirit. As 2014 is their year, they are supposed to be especially lucky.
My family celebrates Lunar New Year every year and we follow (our family’s) traditions very closely. Especially, when my paternal grandmother comes all the way from Taiwan! The celebration gets even bigger since shes usually in charge of all the festivities and more importantly, the food. Normally, the entire family gathers together for an annual reunion dinner, where we spend the entire day preparing a huge feast.
In the Ku household there is also a traditional thorough cleanse of the house; this is said to sweep away any ill-fortune and make way for good incoming luck. Our windows and doors are decorated with red color paper-cuts and couplets with popular themes of “good fortune”, “happiness”, “wealth”, and “longevity”. My maternal grandfather, has a gift for writing traditional Chinese scrolls, which will be hung around the house, and when the weather permits, we light firecrackers outside. Of course, the younger generation will be given red pockets from the elders.
It is a long standing tradition that fish is served on Lunar New Year’s Eve, and more importantly that we not completely finish the fish on the table. This is symbolically significant, that there is more “fish” for years to come. The word for “fish” in Cantonese and Mandarin is phonetically similar to the word “everything”, which is part of a common new year phrase that reads “wish you everything of good fortune and longevity.” Traditionally, one has to eat the fish slowly, to savour the goodness that’s given to us in life.
According to my dad, this is a holiday traditionally meant to be spent at home with family. This might include watching the parades on TV or attending them during the Lantern Festival. When my brother and I were younger, my parents would dress us up in traditional Chinese outfits, usually in the traditionally lucky colour red.
These are just a few of my family’s traditional during Lunar New Year celebration. In my hometown of Taipei, you would find that my family religiously follows even more (if not all) the traditions that are meant specifically for each day of the 15 day Lantern Festival; here are some other traditions and facts that you might not have known about the Lunar New Year.
On behalf of everyone at Schema Magazine, we hope you cherish this lively time with your family and friends, and enjoy eating all that delicious food. And may the Year of the Horse bring you good health, prosperity and good fortune. Happy Lunar New Year!