Popular Lunar New Year Traditions
Lunar New Year is a holiday celebrated across many Asian cultures to ring in the new year. It's celebrated across the first 15 days of the first month of the lunar calendar, and this year, it begins on February 1st, 2022. Many countries across Asia have their own traditions and names for the festival, from seollal in Korea, Tết in Vietnam, Songkran in Thailand and beyond.
As Asian Americans, we celebrate Lunar New Year by mixing traditions as is common for third-culture kids of our generation. And despite our best efforts, we realized that there are lots of traditions that we've forgotten, to the dismay of our parents. So we decided to document and share the distinctive traditions we celebrate!
What are our do's and don'ts of Lunar New Year?
- Decorate the house with red decorations! Red paper lanterns are very important as they are said to ward off bad luck.
- Hang a fu prosperity sign upside down on your door. Having it pointing down signals that prosperity "is here"
- Clean the house ahead of time
- Hand out red envelopes to kids (only if you're a married adult). Try to give denominations that feature the numbers six and eight (lucky in Chinese), and avoid denominations with the number four (unlucky)
- Go home to cook and eat with your family. A common activity is hand making dumplings and wontons with the grandparents!
- Buy (and wear) new clothes
- Bring gifts to your family and hosts! Fruits, bamboo plants, orchids, candy and desserts are common and appreciated
- Clean the house, do laundry or wash/cut your hair, otherwise you'll sweep /wash away your good luck!
- Break anything - it's bad luck
- Get into any arguments (and if you do, resolve them quickly and peacefully)
- Give any unlucky gifts - in Chinese culture, avoid things like clocks, watches, knives, shoes, and anything with the number four (it's considered unlucky as four sounds like 'death' in Chinese)
- Borrow money (it starts the year off on the wrong foot)
- Cry (but this could just be our parents wanting us to be well behaved as kids!)
Lucky Food and Drink Traditions
There's a bunch of traditional foods that we eat on Lunar New Year that signify good luck, happiness, health and other things we want.
Dumplings: Dumplings signify wealth as they're shaped like gold ingots, so we grew up being told the more you eat, the more money you'll make that year!
Fish: This is a common staple at the dinner table, since fish in Chinese sounds like “surplus” and typical blessings will wish you to have a surplus of food and money each year. However, we only eat half the first day and save the rest for the following day, to further prolong the surplus.
Tangerines/Oranges: This is the classic after dinner dessert. These fruits are lucky because their name in Cantonese sounds the same as ‘good fortune’.
Avoid Pears: they symbolize parting ways
Alcohol: It's believed that the alcohol can protect from bad luck, so everyone will take a sip!