Happy Lunar New Year graphic with dragon centered around a circular pattern

Happy Lunar New Year graphic with dragon centered around a circular pattern

What is Lunar New Year?

Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival, is celebrated in China and much of Asia, including Korea, Vietnam and Singapore, as well as among the global Asian diaspora. It has many origin stories.

The most common is a legend that the celebrations have their origins in an effort to scare away a beast called “Nian” (which means “year” in Chinese) which stalked cities and villages each spring, attacking people. Because Nian was afraid of loud noises, fire and the color red, people used firecrackers and red paper to frighten the mythical creature away.

What is the meaning of Lunar New Year?

The holiday symbolizes a hopeful transition from the cold winter to the season of renewal.

It is a largely secular holiday but includes cultural rituals that derive from Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism, as well as from ancient myths and folk traditions. Some of the world’s biggest Lunar New Year celebrations are now held outside Asia, with one of the most noteworthy in San Francisco. In California, the festival was recognized for the first time as an official state holiday last year. Lanterns and gifts of money in red envelopes are ubiquitous, along with dragon dances aimed at chasing away evil spirits.

When is Lunar New Year?

Celebrations for Lunar New Year are determined by the phases of the moon. Technically, the holiday begins during the second new moon after the winter solstice. As a result, it falls on different dates each year. This year, the New Year began on Feb. 10. Celebrations often last several days and the New Year period culminates with the Lantern Festival, this year held on Feb. 24. The Chinese zodiac system assigns each year to one of 12 animals. In 2024, it will be the Year of the Dragon.

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