A famous old story apprised by legends about villagers fighting against a mythical beast called Nain, who came on the first day of the New Year and ate all the livestock, crops and kids.
In order to get rid of it, the villagers kept food outside the home entrance in the hope that the monster would not attack the people. However, later it was found that the monster was afraid that the Color and loud noise would terrify the monster.
Since then, the Lunar New Year is celebrated in many countries of the world in a grand way in the hope that the monster will not come to attack them, and thus the new year will bring good fortune, health and wellbeing. Lunar New Year is also known as Chinese New Year or Spring Festival.
According to the Chinese Lunar calendar, each year, the Lunar New Year is celebrated in countries like China, Taiwan, South Korea, North Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. The Chinese zodiac has 12 animals, each year named after one animal.
In China, the Lunar New Year is celebrated in a lavish way, as it is the biggest holiday of the year. The year begins when the new moon appears, which is named after one animal according to the Chinese zodiac.
As China is a large country, it has several traditions which vary from region to region and family to family. However, there are some widely common practices that are performed almost in every household.
As it is the biggest holiday season, people go back to their hometown to celebrate the New Year with their parents and friends.
Around 3 billion people travel to their hometown to celebrate the festival. It is the most precious time to get reunited with family and old friends.
Creating homemade ‘duilian’ (rhyming couplets) and hanging it at the entrance door of the house is one of the most common popular traditions.
In the duilian, two lines are antithetical yet contain complimentary words that bring good fortune to the home and its residents. For creating a duilian red paper, black ink and a paint brush are used strictly.
Especially for the Lunar New Year people clean their house from top to bottom thoroughly. They believe that through cleaning, they will sweep away all the dust and bad memories and will welcome the new year with endless fortune and possibilities.
A special feast is organized for the New Year occasion, which of course varies from region to region. Nevertheless, ‘jiao zi’, which is widely known as dumplings, is made almost in all households.
The family gets involved in making the dumplings. In some households, they put freshly washed coins inside the dumpling. The person who gets that dumpling will have good fortune all around the year.
Shopping malls are crowded as it is the festive season. People buy new clothes, accessories, candies, flowers and stuff for decorations.
Red is an optimistic colour for this festival. Thus people try to wear any red clothing as they believe that the colour red brings fortune.
The entire country is glamoured with flowers and street lights. Different public festivals and fairs are organized along with street performances for entertaining the people.
Lion dance and dragon dance are performed during the day time. At night lantern shows are arranged with fireworks for the amusement of the people.
Lunar New Year is the biggest and culturally most important holiday in the country. This holiday sometimes lasts up to 9 days, as the Lunar New Year festival continues until the lantern festival that takes place on the 15th day of the lunar calendar. The entire island gets into a festive and happy mood.
To enjoy the festival with their dear ones, people travel to their ancestral home for a family reunion. People visit their relatives and close friends to celebrate the new year.
In all the households, they put a ‘chunlian’ at the entrance, which symbolizes good luck. In Taiwan, it is called the spring couplet.
Chunlian is painted with a wise message or short poem. It is essential to remove the previous chunlian and replace it with a fresh new one.
The new year special meal is served in the evening which is enjoyed with the family. Each dish holds a specific significance that brings good fortune and well being.
Through sharing foods, they make new memories and share experiences. In the modern era people do not like to take all the hustle for preparing meals and clean dishes after the meal, so they dine in the restaurants with family and friends.
On the first day of the year, many people visit temples and pray for wellbeing, good fortune, health, prosperity and good luck.
Second is special for the married women, as they visit their parents home and spend the day with them. Third and fourth days are additional opportunities for going out, eating, watching street performances and relaxing.
A special activity for the children is to receive red envelopes from grandparents and parents. This is a fun tradition for the children, as the elder member of the family gives them a red envelope that carries money in it.
Cities are decorated along with the market and shopping malls. The market pops out as people shop for the Lunar New Year.
Dihua streets transform into a massive Lunar market, as they sell red decorations and a wide variety of foods, candies and flowers. All types of products related to the New Year tradition are available in the special Lunar market.
South Korean call the Lunar New Year Seollal. They celebrate the new year on the first day of the lunar calendar, as they have done for several years. In the present time, many people celebrate the new year following the solar calendar. That’s why Korean people living abroad celebrate two new years.
Lunar New Year is a three-day event in South Korea. Most people celebrate the occasion with their family, relatives and old friends, also through showing respect to the ancestor.
Koreans start their new year by showing respect to their ancestors and reconnecting with family.
They wear their traditional outfit ‘hanbok’ and perform ceremonial rituals ‘seh bae’ (deep bow down to the floor)to show respect to the elders and ancestors.
After the completion of seh bae ritual, they offer food and drinks to the spirits of the ancestors. Children receive blessings, money and wise wisdoms from the elders.
In the Lunar New Year, Koreans highly encourage family bonding. Of course, family times vary from family to family, as some families bond through playing varieties of traditional outdoor games like; kite-flying, noltigi and yutnori.
The young generation must visit their relatives that live close and wish them for the new year.
Colors necessarily play an important role in the occasion of the Lunar New Year. Starting from decorating for the new year to wearing a dress maintaining an appropriate color, the significance of colors is highly prioritized.
Everything should be of bright and vivid colors. Red symbolizes passion and good luck. Green, yellow and other bright colors are also encouraged to wear on Seollal.
The traditional meal is arranged for the celebration of the new year, consisting of ‘duk guk’ or soup of thinly sliced rice cake and different types of dumplings.
The white rice cake soup symbolizes the fresh beginning of the New Year. Besides, some other dishes are also enjoyed by Koreans, such as; tteokguk, soup made of meat, seaweed and sliced rice cake, spring onions and kimchi.
The entire nation lights up with street lights and other decorations. Fireworks and fountain splash are organized at night to cheer up the festive people.
Korean traditional lion and dragon dance is performed in the street to promote good fortune, wisdom and power. Also, red lanterns made of paper and silk carrying different symbols and phrases are flown in the sky.
During the ruling period of Kim Il Sung, Lunar New Year celebration was not allowed in North Korea. Until 1989, new year day was given a holiday just to pass, but from 2003 North Korea’s government hosted the Lunar New Year as a national event.
Unlike South Korean, North Korean do not travel to their hometown to celebrate this occasion.
Travelling is very difficult in North Korea, that’s why they prefer to stay at their current place. Lunar New Year celebration is not quite exciting to them. They just prefer to stay at home.
However, some basic rituals and traditions are followed almost in every household. The first thing that men need to do in the morning is to visit relatives and neighbours and greet them for the new year.
Surprisingly, women are not allowed to visit and greet like men. The North Koreans believe that entrance of a female on the first day of the year will bring bad luck. Hence, women do not take part in this tradition.
Rather they prefer to stay home and play some traditional board games, sharing food and pass the time through singing and dancing.
Many Koreans still perform their traditional ancestral rites ritual ‘charye’. Moreover, some Korean Peninsula performs sebae and wish one another good luck for the new year.
During the new year celebration, they lay flowers and show respect to the former presidents.
In Singapore, Lunar New Year is celebrated in a lush way in cities like; Chinatown, Tampines Hub, Vivo City and Jewel Changi Airport.
Over the years, the celebration of the Lunar New Year of Singaporeans has changed a lot as now they mix old and new traditions for the New Year festival.
During the occasion of the Lunar New Year, both younger and older Chinese people visit the pagodas in Chinatown and pray for countless possibilities in the new year. They treat themselves through visiting the heritage sites and amusement places.
Wishing trees are quite popular in Singapore, especially during the festive season. Write a wish on the card and hang it on the wishing tree, along with that 2 dollars being donated for charity.
The markets become overly crowded during this festive season. The bazaars are decorated with bright colors, and people are everywhere buying their necessary Lunar goodies.
Besides buying Lunar goodies, people enjoy many special foods in the bazaar like pineapple tart, salmon, sashimi, nian gao, sweet and sticky rice cakes.
Different stage shows are organized, full of singing, dancing and magic shows. The cities are decorated with bright colors and lenteral lightning in the street. People can adopt the lantern for a few days but are not allowed to buy it.
Kuala Lumpur and Penang are the two biggest cities that host the biggest Lunar New Year festival in the country. In Kuala Lumpur, experience the best Lunar New Year festival in Chinatown and Old Klang Road, also in Georgetown, Ipoh and Malacca.
People visit the temples on the first day of the new year to seek good wishes for the upcoming days of the year.
Temples are lit up with colorful lamps at night, which indeed create beautiful scenery. Besides the Chinese people, local people come and join to witness the mesmerising beauty of the festival.
Malaysian people spend their first day of the new year with their families; on the 2nd and 3rd day, they visit their relatives and hang out with their close friends.
Chinese store owners keep their shops shut and visit their families to spend the Lunar New Year together.
Malaysian practice an open house tradition, that is, all the doors are open in a house so that any people can visit regardless of their race and religion. The leader of the country also takes part in the open house tradition in the country’s community hall to accommodate the crowd.
A special dish named ‘yee sang’ is served only during the Chinese New Year. A very common tradition is followed while eating the dish as a sherred bit of yee sang tossed in the year with the chopstick. The higher the toss is, the more good luck, prosperity and wellbeing they will receive.
The shopping malls display Chinese New Year themes to cheer up the customers and for good fortune.
Malls remain crowded with people who are looking for New Year goodies. Chinese stores showcase lion and dragon dance on the first day as they believe it will bring blessings for them, and the store will perform great business that year.
People enjoy fireworks and fountain splash till midnight. Informal parades are arranged in front of the open house. Also, dragon and lion dances on the street entertain people during the festival.
Vietnam calls the Lunar New Year ‘Tet’ or ‘Vietnamese Lunar New Year as the Vietnamese welcome spring following the Chinese Lunar calendar.
Tet and Chinese New Year are celebrated on the same day. It only differs in timing as Beijing is an hour ahead of Hanoi.
Tet is the most important and popular holiday in the country. Thus the busy and crowded city turns into a desert as everybody leaves for their hometown to celebrate the new year with their family. Almost all the shops and restaurants are closed for 3 days.
Vietnamese celebrate Tat with their family privately. First day they visit their relatives in the daytime and spend the night with their families. Second day they visit important colleagues and close friends, and on the third day, they meet everyone else.
Many people visit pagodas and seek blessings. Also, they exchange gifts which are known as ‘lucky money’. People spend their time drinking, glamping, chatting, playing, singing karaoke and eating traditional snacks.
Major cities are decorated with lights, trees and flowers. Besides, families decorate their homes with various colors, potted tangerine trees and flowering bushes.
Lunar New Year may not be celebrated all around the world, but it is one of the most popular festivals in the world.
Lunar New Year brings joy, hope and prosperity in everyone’s life, and people of all races and religions should enjoy it if they have the scope.