The oldest civilizations on earth measured their months and years on lunar cycles, solar cycles, or both. So, though the Chinese adopted the Western, or Gregorian, calendar that we all use today back in 1912, they still enjoy big celebrations from their traditional calendar. One of their biggest events is the Lunar New Year celebration aka Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival.
Because lunar cycles vary, Chinese New Year begins on different dates each year. For 2023, the official date is Jan. 22 and that means this weekend and the next two weeks will be filled with traditional celebrations until the official end of the Spring Festival on Feb. 5.
Chinese New Year 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit, the fourth animal on the Chinese Zodiac. That’s why we’ll see lots and lots of rabbit characters included in festival celebrations along with red lanterns and decorations, fireworks, lion dances, and food. Many cities around the world enjoy Chinese New Year celebrations, but if there isn’t one in your hometown, here are some ways to enjoy a second new start to the year with your family and friends.
Lunar New Year’s Eve
First, a clean home is important to ensure any bad luck from the previous year has been swept away before the New Year arrives! Then, place red decorations throughout to give the new year a warm welcome by warding off evil spirits and negativity. Red signifies prosperity and energy, so hang red lanterns outside and post red couplets—decorative calligraphy—on the doors.
A big family reunion dinner on Lunar New Year’s Eve is an important time for enjoying filled dumplings—which signify wealth, fish—which symbolizes abundance, and other lucky foods like tangerines and rice cakes. Red envelopes of lucky money are exchanged. Then, before midnight, everyone gathers for fireworks and firecrackers.
New Year’s Day
The official first day of the new year is a day to avoid washing away all the good luck that came overnight. No showers allowed! Also, don’t sweep or throw out any garbage before the fifth day of the new year.
Spring Festival Season
As the Lunar New Year celebrations continues, it’s important to avoid all bad luck! Don’t break any dishes, cry, use bad language, wear black or white clothing, or keep an odd amount of money in your pocket. All these things can bring bad luck. Also avoid visiting a hospital to avoid illness, avoid using scissors or knives to avoid cutting wealth, and avoid lending or borrowing money because it leads to debt. Day 15, the final day, of the season is celebrated with a lantern festival and sweet dumplings.
Of course, these are all very simplified parts and pieces of a grand tradition with important significance to Chinese families. But it can be fun to learn about other cultures by enjoying their celebrations. And maybe the kids could be encouraged to be on their best behavior for the first two weeks of the Lunar New Year if they know it will bring them good luck all year long!