What is Lunar New Year?


Jada Sandvall

Typical red paper envelopes used to gift money for good fortune for the new year.

Jada Sandvall, Feature Editor

In America, New Year’s Day is celebrated on Jan. 1 with a glass of champagne or a kiss from your significant other. However, that day is simply not applicable to all cultures in the world. In China and the surrounding Asian countries, Lunar New Year (also known as Chinese New Year or Spring Festival) is a 15-day celebration of the start and finish of the first new moon of the lunar calendar.

Back when the Shang Dynasty ruled over China, at the beginning and end of a new lunar year, citizens would hold sacrificial ceremonies to honor their gods and ancestors. As a sign of respect, citizens were essentially told to focus solely on the celebration, nothing else. In the days leading up to the celebration, they would thoroughly clean out their houses to “make room” for new spirits to enter, which some citizens still do. Also, they posted scrolls with words of praise and sacrificed old scraps of food and paper icons for their gods and ancestors. Many believe that these simple rituals set up the year to be filled with good luck and fortune with support from their gods and ancestors.

Fast forward a few thousand years, and now these rituals and celebrations have changed slightly. Although some families still partake in these traditions, modern-day culture has caused it to stray from the praises and instead to the celebration of the gods and ancestors. The color red floods the streets of Asia throughout the celebration as it is the color of good luck and fortune. Typical forms of celebration include parades, lighting firecrackers and the lighting of red paper lanterns. 

Another important factor in the celebration is the food. The festival is initiated with a large gathering for families to catch up and celebrate the arrival of spring over an immense feast. Some typical items shared at this feast include tangyuan (a sticky rice ball), steamed dumplings, spring rolls and several other traditional dishes. At these feasts, families typically pass along red envelopes filled with money. These envelopes are used as a symbol of good luck and prosperity for the upcoming year. 

Due to the pandemic, travel to Asia has been very limited, making it hard to celebrate the annual holiday. However, here in America, many Asian-American families are finding new ways to celebrate the holidays regardless of being in a traditional setting or not. Several art galleries and communal organizations have put together exhibits to continue to honor the history of the Lunar New Year and normalize the traditions in America. 

Although we have a designated day every year for our new year’s festivities, for those who celebrate Lunar New Year, that period could fall any time between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20. In 2022, the celebration of the new lunar year begins on Feb. 1 and will last the typical 15 days.