Lunar New Year is also known as Chinese New Year or Spring Festival. It is the second most important holiday observed by the Chinese after Harvest Moon Festival or Chuseok.
The name has been derived from the lunar phase, which determines the New Year date. The New Year date is determined by the moon cycles and hence the date is not the same every year.
Chinese New Year is a holiday in regions where the Chinese population is high. But in places where there is less number of Chinese people, celebrations are galore. Singapore, Mainland China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Macau, Indonesia, Hongkong, and Taiwan, this occasion is celebrated with great pomp and show. In 2024, Chinese New Year will be celebrated on Feb 05.
Spring Festival is usually observed from the first day of the New Year and continues until 15th of the same month. The table below will give you an idea of the Chinese New Year cycle.
Celebrations begin a week before New Year. In order to make a fresh start, people clean their homes, pay off all their debts, get a new hair cut, decorate their homes in red (as red is considered to be lucky), and forget and forgive old rivalries.
Paper lanterns and hanging decorations are quite common in almost all households. Images and decorative pieces depicting scenes of happiness, luck, and prosperity are displayed on walls and window sills. Incense sticks are burnt in temples and homes to pay homage to ancestors. It is believed that this brings good luck to the household for the rest of the year.
Lights are kept on throughout the night. People visit houses in the neighborhood. Inviting friends and peers for celebrations is quite common.
In Korean villages, villagers visit the house of the wealthiest person, where they are served good food. From here they proceed to the other houses in the village.
Another interesting feature of the celebrations is playing card games. Playing cards depicting images of luck and joy are played with on the occasion of the celebrations.
On New Year children greet and pay respect to their parents and elders of the household. In return, they receive what is known as lay see, which is money sealed inside red envelopes.
Paying respect to Kitchen God is another famous Chinese New Year tradition. Kitchen God, according to the Chinese people is believed to be a messenger who watches the ‘moral conduct’ of families throughout the year. He generally occupies a place on the hearth or on the wall of the kitchen.
On the occasion of New Year, he is burnt so that his spirit can rise up and reach God. In Heaven, he either speaks good things about the family or ill about them. This in turn decides the fate of the household for the rest of the year.
New Year celebrations also mean good food. People visit each other’s houses and enjoy a hearty meal. Celebrations are incomplete without the culinary delights.
A grand feast is held on New Year and the evening before that. A typical Asian festive meal will include – fish for prosperity, noodles for a long life, chestnuts and dates for fertility, green vegetables for good harvest and self cleansing of the body, mussels for fortune, and oranges for a fun filled and wealthy life.
In northern part of China, jiaozi is a common dish. It is a steamed dumpling. In the southern part of China, nian gao or sweet rice pudding is prepared.
In Seoul, for instance, it is compulsory to eat ddeok-guk. It is basically soup made of rice cake. Rice cakes made in shape of sausages are diagonally cut, soaked in water. The slices are then boiled in broth of beef. Eggs, chives, and seaweed are used for garnishing.
Decorations essentially form an important part of the celebrations. One of the prominent colors used for Lunar New Year decorations is the color red. It is regarded as lucky and is believed to ward off evil spirits from households.