The Lunar New Year celebration is a festival unlike any other. Also known as the Chinese New Year and Spring Festival, this celebration does not hold a specific date, rather it is based on the lunar calendar. The 12th lunar month marks the end of the previous year, with the capstone Lantern Festival landing in late January to mid-February.
February 4th-11th: Little Year
The first phase, lasting for 8 days, is called the Little Year. This is the time of preparation - cleaning, sweeping, and overall out with the old and fresh start mentality. In traditional and contemporary Chinese culture the color red represents happiness and prosperity. Red is considered to be a lucky color. The belief is that by surrounding yourself and your home with elaborate red decorations good luck will follow you into the new year.
February 11th: New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve is aligned with the new moon. Families come together for a reunion dinner, many traveling long distances. This dinner consists of traditional symbolically lucky meals, and of course Chinese dumplings. TV sets in family rooms will play the New Year Gala for a live presentation of games, songs, dances, martial art exhibitions, sketches, music, acrobatics, drama, and more.
February 12th-26th: Spring & Lantern Festival
Following the previous night’s New Year's Eve celebrations, this marks the beginning of the Spring Festival. Fireworks are loud and often set off on the ground in an effort to fend off evil spirits. Respect is paid to ancestors in the form of shrines and offerings. Both kids and unmarried adults receive money in lavish red envelopes from parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.
The first full moon marks the last day of the Spring Festival. That last day (this year February 26th) is traditionally China’s most important festival: the Lantern Festival. These celebrations welcome Spring and symbolize the reunification of the family bond. The daytime is filled with folk dancing in the streets, food vendors selling tangyuan (ball-shaped sticky rice dumplings), music, art exhibitions, riddles, amongst others. As evening falls, onlookers enjoy watching extravagantly crafted lanterns float into the night sky under the first full moon of the year.
One of the most phenomenal things about this holiday is the vast number of people and cultures coming together in the same traditions to welcome the new lunar year. It is estimated that 20% of the world’s population take part in celebrating this Spring Festival! Chinese citizens, as well as large populations in Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, Vietnam, and Tibet traditionally take part in this holiday. While there are many small variations of this celebration, the underlying traditions remain the same: family.