What is the Lunar New Year? Traditions and celebrations explained | Arts and Culture News


Greater than a billion individuals from all over the world are about to rejoice the Lunar New Yr and the arrival of the Yr of the Rabbit.

Lots of these welcoming the Lunar New Yr are from China, the place the competition is marked by per week of public holidays. However it is usually an vital occasion for individuals of Chinese language descent in locations comparable to Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore, in addition to for Vietnamese and Koreans.

However what’s the Lunar New Yr and the way is it celebrated?

Right here’s what you should know:

What’s the Lunar New Yr?

The Lunar New Yr, as its title suggests, relies on the cycles of the Moon and falls on a special day every year – often between late January and the center of February.

This yr, the celebrations begin on January 22.

In China, the 15-day celebration is often known as the Spring Competition and is an important vacation of the yr.

The occasion can also be celebrated in Taiwan, Mongolia, Vietnam and lots of nations in Southeast Asia – comparable to Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. There are additionally raucous celebrations in Cambodia, regardless that it’s not an official vacation there.

Companies and authorities places of work will shut for seven days of public holidays in China and a minimum of a couple of days elsewhere. Many cities across the area shall be far quieter than regular.

Vietnam calls the competition “Tet”, South Korea, “Seollal” and Indonesia, “Imlek”. Vietnam additionally has its personal zodiac, which doesn’t embody the rabbit, so it can rejoice the arrival the Yr of the Cat.

Kumquat timber are in style – and auspicious – decorations to mark the Lunar New Yr [Nhac Nguyen/AFP]

In Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, hundreds of thousands of residents of Chinese language descent endured a long time of discrimination throughout former President Soeharto’s repressive rule. They had been compelled to surrender Chinese language-style names and their very own language, and never allowed to rejoice the competition overtly. Lunar New Yr solely grew to become a nationwide public vacation in 2002, 4 years after Soeharto was toppled.

The New Yr celebration often ends with the Lantern Competition though some nations have their very own traditions as properly.

In Malaysia, for instance, the fifteenth day is named Chap Goh Mei (fifteenth night time) within the Hokkien dialect and is when younger, single girls throw oranges daubed with their title and phone quantity into the ocean within the hope it will likely be discovered by the associate of their goals.

Why is it the Yr of the Rabbit?

The Chinese language zodiac is made up of 12 animals, beginning with the rat and working by way of the ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, canine and pig. The dragon is seen as essentially the most auspicious signal and there may be usually a spike in births throughout dragon years.

The zodiac is seen as essential to understanding individuals, their well being, wealth and love lives.

The rabbit yr will begin on Sunday and are available to an finish on February 9, 2024.

The rabbit – and anybody born in a rabbit yr – is seen as quiet and considerate. Every zodiac animal additionally has a raft of fortunate colors, numbers and instructions. However every individual’s prospects for the yr and in life are additionally influenced by the “5 parts” of wooden, hearth, earth, metallic and water.

Traditional cakes being prepared in Jakarta. They are on a tray with red tops
Chinese language individuals in nations round Asia have particular delicacies for the Lunar New Yr [Juni Kriswanto/AFP]

The final rabbit yr was in 2011 when northeastern Japan was rocked by a tsunami triggered by one of the vital highly effective earthquakes ever recorded. Greater than 22,000 individuals had been killed and the Fukushima nuclear plant destroyed. It was additionally the beginning of the Arab Spring protests and the yr the US introduced it had killed Al al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden.

Well-known individuals born within the Yr of Rabbit embody scientist Albert Einstein, footballer David Beckham, actress Angelina Jolie and her fellow actor and ex-husband Brad Pitt.

How is the competition celebrated?

Customs and traditions usually differ relying on nation and the Chinese language dialect the household speaks, however for everybody in all places family and meals are central to the Lunar New Yr.

Crucial a part of the celebration is the “Reunion Dinner” when the household gathers on the eve of the brand new yr to get pleasure from a banquet with dishes chosen not just for their style however for what they symbolise.

In Malaysia and Singapore, yee sang is a well-liked appetiser to get the celebrations below approach. Made up of shredded fruit and greens – comparable to carrot, ginger and pomelo – and topped with uncooked fish, often salmon, the salad is positioned in the midst of the desk.

Diners collect across the plate, chopsticks on the prepared, tossing the elements and the dressing collectively and sharing new yr needs with their fellow diners. The goal is to toss the yee sang as excessive as doable to make sure good luck within the yr forward.

An entire steamed fish – symbolising abundance – can also be a should, or a complete rooster full with toes and head. Mandarin oranges are ubiquitous, as are a inventory of snacks and cookies.

Historically, the dinner at all times befell at dwelling however as incomes have elevated, many households have began going to eating places for his or her meal.

A view of the Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur. It has an orange roof and there are red lanterns hung across the courtyard. A man is sweeping the floor.
Purple lanterns dangle throughout the courtyard of Kuala Lumpur’s Thean Hou Temple forward of the Lunar New Yr celebrations [Mohd Rasfan/AFP]

In South Korea, individuals – often the women – spend days making ready meals for the festivities. A typical and in style dish is ddeokguk, a spicy soup of rice truffles, and songpyeon, candy rice truffles which are formed like a half moon.

The frenzy of all of the preparation, lengthy drives to see household and buddies, the socialising itself and the clear up afterwards may even result in exhaustion – what Koreans name Myung Cheol Chung Hu Kun.

What are among the traditions related to the competition?

Many households can have a great clear-out forward of the Lunar New Yr, scrubbing the home from prime to backside, cleansing the home windows and hanging pink lanterns and calligraphy on the entrance door.

Cleansing is partly symbolic – to do away with any unhealthy luck from the earlier yr – but additionally sensible. Purple is the color of happiness and success.

Folks may also dangle glowing lights outdoors and adorn the place with kumquat timber, pussy willow, peach blossom or bamboo shoots.

Unleashing a barrage of fireworks can also be essential, even when, in some nations, they’re banned.

At midnight, because the eve turns into the primary day of the Lunar New Yr, the streets of cities throughout the area will fill with the sound of exploding firecrackers. The show is meant to drive away any unhealthy luck that could be lurking.

Some individuals head to the temple on the eve – aiming to be the primary to plant their joss stick – whereas others wait till the subsequent day once they can even pay respects to their family members.

A close up of yellow mahjong tiles and the hands of the four people playing the game
Conventional video games, comparable to mahjong, are in style throughout the festivities with some laying bets on the result [File: Edgar Su/Reuters]
People crowd around an urn in a Chinese temple in Singapore clutching their joss sticks. They want to be the first to plant their stick in the year. They look c
Folks rush to plant the primary joss stick of the Chinese language New Yr on the stroke of midnight at a temple in Singapore [File: Edgar Su/Reuters]

Many can even spend the vacation taking part in conventional video games, such because the tile-based technique sport mahjong. Playing can also be in style, principally amongst family and friends, though the area’s casinos additionally do good enterprise throughout the brand new yr.

What are pink packets?

For a lot of youngsters, the enjoyment of the Lunar New Yr comes from counting how a lot cash they’ve made out of the pink envelopes given out throughout the festivities.

Hong bao (Mandarin), lai see (Cantonese) or ang pow (Hokkien) are given by married {couples} and older members of the family to youngsters and those that are single.

The money inside must be crisp, new and denominated in an excellent quantity. Eight is the luckiest quantity whereas 4 ought to be averted – it’s often related to demise.

What about lion dances?

Lion dances are loud and massively in style, with troupes acting at purchasing malls, companies and outdoors workplace blocks, usually to giant crowds.

There are two important kinds of dance – the northern and the southern – and it’s often carried out by two individuals in vibrant costumes. The dancer in entrance controls the large lion masks – with fluttering eyelashes and a big pink mouth – whereas the one on the again varieties the physique and again legs.

Accompanied by drums and cymbals, the efficiency is often energetic and humorous. On the finish, the troupe will throw oranges to the viewers and who will attempt to push a pink packet – a tip for the troupe – into the lion’s mouth.

Two members of a lion dance troupe practise their routine ahead of the Lunar New Year. They are wearing a bright blue costume fringed with white fur and each holding up the lion's head, which has large eyes with white fur around. They are leaping across high poles
Lion dance troupes are booked stable for the lunar new yr and spend months practising their routines [Hasnoor Hussain/Reuters]

Dances have change into more and more acrobatic lately – reflecting the northern traditions – with dancers launching themselves into the air and dancing on poles two or three metres above the bottom.

Malaysia’s acrobatic troupes are thought of among the many greatest on this planet – and kids even journey from different components of Asia to study the strikes.

How do individuals greet one another at Lunar New Yr?

Mandarin audio system: Xin Nian Kuai Le (Completely satisfied New Yr) and Gong Xi Fa Cai (Wishing you an abundance of excellent fortune)

Cantonese audio system: Kung Hei Fatt Choi (Wishing you nice happiness and prosperity)

Malaysia: Selamat Tahun Baru Cina (Completely satisfied Chinese language New Yr. Most ethnic Chinese language will use the Mandarin or Cantonese language greetings)

Indonesia: Selamat Hari Raya Imlek (Completely satisfied Imlek)

Koreas: Sae hae bok mani ba du search engine marketing (Better of luck within the new yr)

Vietnam: Chúc mừng năm mới (Completely satisfied New Yr)

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