Lunar New Year Around the World

     The first day of the Lunar New Year occurred on Friday Feb. 12th.

     As the most important traditional holiday, Lunar New Year is a time for people to reunite with their families, celebrate harvest from the past year, and pray for good luck in the coming year. 

     According to the Lunar New Year’s story, there was a ferocious beast called “Nian” that ate people during the winter. People could not protect themselves until the invention of fireworks, which could scare away the beast. To celebrate this day, people made it the New Year and celebrated by lighting fireworks. Lunar New Year has a cycle of 12 Zodiac animals as the year’s representation: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. The animal for this year is the ox, which represents stability and contribution. 

     During the celebration, Chinese people write spring scrolls (a kind of calligraphy) and place them beside the doors. Other traditions include watching lantern shows, exchanging red pockets, and having a sumptuous dinner with all family members. The Lunar New Year isn’t only observed in China, people celebrate it across several countries and other territories in Asia. Customs vary in different countries, but they all aim to bring about good fortune in the coming year.

 — Howard Yang ‘21

     Let’s take a look at how Hun students welcomed the year of the ox at different places!

Iris Wang ’22, Qingdao, China.

      The day before Lunar New Year, all my family members returned home to celebrate Chu xi (New Year’s Eve) with my grandparents. While they were talking and watching TV outside, I spent most of my day doing homework. But it was too hard for me to focus and fight against the desire to go out and join my family, haha. I played games with my cousins, like mahjong and poker, after I finished my work.

     Toward the evening, my family and I made dumplings together to prepare for our reunion dinner (nian ye fan). My mom cooks fish and chicken really well. My uncle made me my favorite dessert. Some regions in China (like where I am) now don’t allow fireworks due to safety and environmental reasons, which sadly really decreased Lunar New Year’s atmosphere. After dinner, my cousin and I got red envelopes (hong bao) with lucky money from our elders, which is always the most exciting part for children during Lunar New Year.

     On the first day of the new year, we all went out and watched a movie together. I missed welcoming the new year with my family, so it’s quite “lucky” for me that I can be with them this year. 

Iris playing mahjong with her family. Credit: Iris.

Sunny Park ‘22, Seoul, South Korea.

     Usually, on Lunar New Year’s Day, the whole family gathers together and has “Cha-Rye,” an ancestor’s memorial ceremony. Due to the pandemic this year, however, I could only spend time with my grandparents in my house.

     Before having lunch, we had to greet our grandparents with a full bow as a New Year’s greeting. This bowing is called ‘Se-Bae,’ and younger people have to bow to the elders. For instance, I have to bow to both my parents and grandparents, while my parents only have to bow to my grandparents. Then, the older members of the family gave the younger members money gifts. After Se-Bae, we had a traditional Korean dish called “tteokguk.” It is considered proof that you grew one year older. Later, we played “Yutnori,” one of the most popular Korean traditional board games. Using four Yut sticks, we played this game in the hope of continuing strong family ties.

     This year’s New Year’s Day was meaningful because Corona provided us the new experience of spending the day with a few members of our family, where we could talk more. Still, I hope all of us can spend these holidays with the whole family in the future without any concern.

Sunny playing Yutnori with her family. Credit: Sunny
Photo of Tteokguk that Sunny’s mother cooked. Credit: Sunny

Kevin Yang ‘21, Changzhou, China.

     “Thanks” to the pandemic, I got to stay home to celebrate the Lunar New Year with my family for the first time in the past four years. This time, it felt different. I spent a whole day thoroughly cleaning the house with my parents, which is a tradition on Lunar New Year, and did New Year’s shopping at night to prepare for the dinner of New Year’s Eve (Chu xi). 

     On Chu xi, we invited close friends and family members for dinner, and we spent the entire day preparing for the big meal of the year. Still considered as a child, I received lucky money with hopes and wishes for the best of luck during the upcoming year from my parents and their friends. One important tradition of celebrating this grand holiday is to watch the Spring Festival Gala while having dinner. After the count-down, which welcomes the year of the ox, cracking sounds of fireworks filled the air.

Kevin’s New Year’s Eve dinner (nian ye fan). Credit: Kevin

Tobi Nguyen ‘22, Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam

     Lunar New Year has always been one of the most important holidays in my country. Every year, I always feel very excited to celebrate Lunar New Year with my family. However, I usually miss New Year’s Eve because of studying abroad and cannot feel the Lunar New Year atmosphere. 2021 is an exceptional year because I studied virtually. I got a chance to be with my family and participate in all of the activities again. I could feel the warmth and the happiness. I traveled and visited people. I ate food that is only made during Lunar New Year, which I had always missed when I was in the U.S.

     The most important thing about Lunar New Year is definitely lucky money, which is given in a red envelope as a wish of good luck. This year, I received lucky money physically (not electronically), which I didn’t get to do in the past few years. It felt great—like I was getting younger and traveling back to the time when I was still a kid.

     Being able to celebrate Lunar New Year at home with my family was a great experience and a great stress reliever after a long year of dealing with Junior year’s work and the pandemic. I am very thankful that Hun offers virtual learning, which enables me to get a chance to be close to my family on a special holiday, a thing that students who study abroad rarely get.

Tobi with his lucky money. Credit: Tobi

Wishing you a content, safe, and bright year of the ox, no matter where you are!