Lunar New Year


Melanie Wang

In the United States, the “holiday season” refers to the time from Thanksgiving to New Years day. About a month after that another holiday rolls around which is known as Lunar New Year. This holiday brings in fortune, health, and brings together families. This year’s Lunar New Year was on February 12th, 2021, and according to the Chinese zodiac, 2021 is the year of the ox. 

Lunar New year is typically celebrated by Asian countries which include China, Vietnam, and South Korea. The New Year is determined by the cycles of the moon and the sun. New York Times explains “A solar year—the time it takes Earth to orbit the sun—lasts around 365 days, while a lunar year, or 12 full cycles of the Moon, is roughly 354 days.” This is why the new year falls on different days between January 21 to February 20th. 

Traditionally, it is celebrated with lantern festivals, family gatherings, and parties. Some Lunar New Year traditions include the Dragon Dance and the distribution of red envelopes filled with money. The red pouches which are full of money is known as li xi  in Vietnamese, or hongbao in Manderin. They are traditionally gifted from an elder (parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents). When receiving the envelope, the children are supposed to wish the elders a happy new year as a way to bring luck and fortune to the them. Firecrackers and fireworks are also a big tradition. In the U.S, Chinatowns in New York and California erupt with big celebrations. The loud noises and confetti cannons are known to ward off Nian, an ancient monster. Dragon Dance parades are held featuring lions and colorful dragons while gifts are exchanged. Adults and children dress up in their traditional clothing during these celebrations. Different cultures wear different colorful clothing; Vietnamese wear Ao Dai, Chinese wear Hanfu, and traditional Korean dress is Hanbok. 

 In the year 2021, it is the year of the ox. The oxen is known for diligence, persistence, and honesty. The people born in the year of the ox are said to be cautious, faithful, and hardworking. There are 12 Chinese zodiac signs and unlike constellations, the zodiac signs are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. According to Chinese astrology, the zodiac year in which you are born is believed to offend Tai Sui, the God of Age. Every 12 years your zodiac animal years are regarded as a cycle. When you are the ages of 12, 24, 36, 48, 60… you are experiencing the Chinese zodiac birth years and it is believed to bring bad luck. 

Lunar New Year celebrations in 2021 have looked different than previous years due to the coronavirus pandemic. Hong Kong has had a fourth wave of infections and has canceled their New Years parade and their fireworks. In the U.S, San Francisco has canceled their Lunar Festival and parade. Instead of large gatherings, families are holding virtual festivals and staying home. The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) held a virtual fest for the adults and children. “I don’t think you’ll ever see Chinese Americans in the U.S. not celebrate,” says Maasbach, the president of MOCA. Instead of gathering in large parades this year, families have helped small local Chinese restaurants by ordered food from them to enjoy the new year. 

As the year of the Rat ends and the year of the ox begins, Lunar New Year is a time for families to bring fortune and health into their homes. Looking forward to 2022, the next zodiac sign will be the year of the tiger.