So, here in North America, most of us welcomed the new year on January 1, 2019, but for a huge number of people and cultures around the world, the New Year hasn’t really arrived yet. Maybe you’ve seen the copious amount of red décor in your local favourite Chinese food place, or maybe you’ve seen red envelopes—yep, no doubt about it, Lunar New Year is coming! Let me walk you through a few misconceptions about Lunar New Year so you’re well equipped to properly celebrate it!
Isn’t it Chinese New Year? What’s in a name?
Yep, it’s the same holiday. Contrary to the name, the holiday isn’t exclusive to China or Chinese people. It’s actually a holiday that’s widely celebrated in most parts of Asia. People in Korea, Thailand, Vietnam all celebrate the holiday, albeit with different names and traditions. In Korea it’s called seollal (see photo above), Tết in Vietnam. And since Chinese people aren’t the only ones celebrating this holiday, it’s more accurate to call it “Lunar New Year.”
There’s no set date for Lunar New Year
This might be the most confusing part about the Lunar New Year. There’s no set calendar date! This is because the lunisolar calendar that the Lunar New Year is based off of is typically two days shorter than one solar month. To “catch up” with the solar calendar (the one we use in the West), an extra month is slipped in from time to time, resulting in different Lunar New Year dates each year. This year, Lunar New Year falls on February 5— mark your calendars! Er, your Western calendars I mean.
It’s not celebrated at midnight…and doesn’t last a day
Contrary to the Western New Year, the Lunar counterpart isn’t actually celebrated once the clock hits midnight—in fact, it actually lasts a couple of days! Some places start preparing for the entrance of the new lunar year up to 15 days in advance! And depending on the culture, some celebrations will last longer than others. Korea typically has three days off to celebrate, while China takes off up to an entire week to welcome in the new year! If this isn’t the longest new year’s party, I don’t know what is.
The Zodiac animal
The Zodiac animal is based off the Chinese legend of the 12 Zodiac animals. The rat, oxen, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep (or goat), monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. We’re at the end of the 12-year cycle, welcome Year of the Pig!
Fun fact! Your Zodiac animal year is supposedly the unluckiest for you. So if you’re born in the year of the pig, this year is apparently your “unlucky” year. Thank goodness it only comes around every 12 years!
Happy Lunar New Year!
새해 복 많이 받으세요. [I wish you lots of luck in the new year.]