Lunar New Year

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Year of The Ox

By Axel Smith

February 12, 2021 marked the start of the Chinese New Year, or the more widely celebrated and inclusive Lunar year/Spring Festival. The Lunar New Year represents the first moon in the lunisolar calendar that tracks the lunar and solar cycles, which is used mostly in East Asia, in places such as China, Vietnam, South Korea and Singapore. These and many other Asian countries consider this holiday to be one of the most important. Last year was the year of the rat, which might explain why it was so bad. According to Chinese customs, “Rat might be forthright, systematic, meticulous, charismatic, hard working, charming, eloquent, sociable, shrewd, but can be be manipulative, cruel, rigid, selfish, obstinate, critical, ruthless, intolerant, scheming, material prosperity.” The Chinese calendar is built on a cycle of 12 years containing 12 animals. They are the year of the pig, dog, rooster, monkey, goat, horse, snake, dragon, rabbit, tiger, ox, and rat. Your animal is based on the year of your birth. For example, mine is The Monkey because I was born in 2004. The Monkey represents cleverness, curiosity, opportunity. This year, the year of The Ox represents strength, reliability, fairness, and patience. 

Celebrating at home

Lunar New Year’s are celebrated in a variety of ways, starting with home cleaning/sweeping as well as opening windows and doors. This is done to get all bad energies out, in order to have a clean slate for the New Years’ good energies and luck. Next, family reunions are one of the most important traditions in Lunar New Year’s, typically done over beautifully, painstakingly, symbolic and carefully made foods. This is also known as “Chunyun,” which is the “largest human migration on the planet” according to CNN.  Another tradition is giving gifts and red envelopes that contain money, bills preferably that end with an even number as odd numbers are considered unlucky. 

Festival in the streets

Fireworks and firecrackers are set off at the stroke of midnight and traditional dances/performances like the Lion, Dragon, Fan and Phoenix Dances are in order to scare off evil spirits and celebrate the upcoming year. These dances are also usually performed by Kung Fu students and many Asian governments require a permit for martial arts schools prior to performing. The Lantern Festival, also called Yuan Xiao Festival, one of the most recognizable customs, designates the first moon in the lunisolar calendar as well as the end of the celebration. During this tradition, fireworks and firecrackers are also set off and lit, colorful lanterns often with a riddle written on them are usually placed in water. The symbolism of these lanterns are love, hope, reconciliation, peace and forgiveness and honors departed ancestors.