Lunar New Year Traditions

Lunar New Year marks the beginning of a new spring season and inspires large celebrations in traditional communities all across the world. Celebrated annually on the first day of the lunar new year, the Lunar New Year can fall on a different date each year in the Western Gregorian calendar. Each year in the Chinese calendar is associated with one of the twelve zodiacs. The Year of the Dragon, for example, is the luckiest year in the zodiac. Dragons are symbols of power, nobility, dominance, and ambition. To honor this mighty figure within Chinese astrology, many people incorporate practices from traditional Chinese culture in their celebration to bring good luck and happiness for the upcoming year.
Here are a few Lunar New Year traditions for your lunar new year festivities:
Decorations
  • Red and gold are both colors with significant symbolism within Chinese culture. Red typically signifies good luck and energy, while gold is associated with both wealth and happiness. Use this palette in your decorations or dress in these colors for a joyful celebration.
  • Red paper lanterns are used in many Chinese celebrations including during the New Year festival. The hanging lights are meant to resemble a full moon in the sky.
  • Firecrackers are traditionally wrapped in red paper and then ignited so that their loud explosions will scare away any evil spirits that may be lurking.
Food
  • A large meal shared family-style is the most common practice for Lunar New Year celebrations. A staple of this sumptuous feast must be noodles since their length is a sign of longevity.
  • Fish is another lucky food and it is customary to serve a whole fish. By including the head and the tail, the coming year is guaranteed to contain “happy beginnings and endings,” and since there will be leftovers, the dish is a symbol of prosperity. Steaming the fish with a simple black bean sauce is believed to be the best way to display its freshness.
  • Mandarin oranges are also very popular during Lunar New Year. The little golden tangerines are exchanged between families because their name is a homophone for “luck” in the Teochew dialect.
Customs
  • A lion dance performed with the loud beats of a drum is a symbolic ritual used to usher in the new year. Two or three performers usually don a special costume and mimic a lion’s movements to ward off sorrow and fight back ill-fortune. A dragon dance may also occur when a team of people carry a large dragon on poles and travel in curving patterns around the room.
  • Red envelopes containing money are passed out to close family members for luck, usually from married couples or the elderly to unmarried juniors and children. Sometimes chocolate coins may also be found inside.
There are many myths and traditions associated with this important occasion in Chinese culture that complete the meaning of the holiday. Try some of these ideas at your next celebration!
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