Lunar New Year

Gracie Skidmore

The Lunar New Year is one of the most cherished holidays for east and southeast Asian cultures, including Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean communities. This year Lunar New Year was celebrated on Sunday, January 22.
Lunar New Year is the beginning of a calendar year whose months are moon cycles based on the lunar calendar and is usually celebrated for multiple days, not just one day.
China’s Lunar New Year is known as the Spring Festival or Chūnjié in Mandarin, while Koreans call it Seollal and Vietnamese refer to it as Tết. Each year in the Lunar Calendar is represented by one of 12 zodiac animals, in the cycle of 12 stations or “signs’ ‘ along the apparent path of the sun through the cosmos.
The 12 zodiacs are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. But along with the 12 zodiacs there are also the five elements of earth, water, fire, wood, and metal that are also mapped into the calendar. Each year is associated with an animal that corresponds to one of the elements. 2023 is going to be the year of the rabbit. This last happened in 2011. Along with the zodiacs there are also many traditions and heritage.

In China, the Chinese New Year dates back to the Shang Dynasty in the 14th century B.C. Under Emperor Wu of Han (140-87 B.C.) the tradition of celebrating the first day of Chinese new year began.
“This holiday has ancient roots in China as an agricultural society. It was the occasion to celebrate the harvest and worship the gods and ask for good harvests in times to come,” Young Chen explains, a scholar in Asian American studies.
Among Chinese cultures, fish is typically included as a last course of a New Year’s meal for good luck. The meal also features glutinous rice ball soup, moon shaped rice cake, and dumplings. Sometimes a cleaned coin is tucked inside a dumpling for extra luck. The holiday concludes with a lantern festival. Parades, dances, games, and fireworks mark the final day of the holiday.

As for Vietnam, homes are decorated with kumquat trees and flowers such as peach blossoms, orchids, and red gladonias. Families feast on five fruit platters to honor ancestors. Tết celebrations can also include bánh chưng, a rice cake made with mung beans, pork, and other ingredients wrapped in bamboo leaves. Snacks called mứt tết are commonly offered to guests. They are sweet treats made from dried fruits or roasted seeds mixed with sugar.

In Korea, official new years celebrations were halted from 1910-1945. This happened when the empire of Japan annexed Korea and ruled it as a colony until the end of World War ll. In North Korea you are expected to visit statues of founder Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il and bring an offering of flowers. In North and South Korea food like sliced rice cake soup (tteokguk) and a dish made from five different grains are prepared. Rather than giving red envelopes with money inside like China and Vietnam (hóngbāo). Elders give white and patterned envelopes. Traditionally families gather at the house of the oldest male relative to pay their respects to ancestors and elders.