This year, in homes all over the world, people are prepping to celebrate the Year of the Dragon on Monday, January 23, 2012. While it is often called “Chinese New Year” most Asian households celebrate the holiday known as Lunar New Year. I happen to live in a multicultural family that does just that.
This year we will join my in-laws to ring in the new year while participating in their annual cultural show. My family happens to be Vietnamese so their version of the holiday is know as Tet. My daughter is terribly excited to put on her Ao Dai (traditional Vietnamese dress) and watch her Uncle dance around stage dressed up as a lion.
Many families prep for Lunar New Year by cleaning their homes from top to bottom to sweep away ill-fortunes and make way for incoming luck. People buy new clothes, get haircuts, and try to pay off all debts so the old doesn’t follow them into the new year. They cook amazing amounts of traditionally lucky foods and feast together on the eve of the holiday.
Our family almost always has a get-together similar to Thanksgiving. There are gorgeous spreads of food and hours of eating and socializing with people who are visiting from out of town. Many families will travel great distances for this occasion…for it is known as a family reunion dinner.
“Despite a number of differences, there’s one common theme that takes center stage for all Asian New Year celebrations: family. No matter what the country, religion or race, New Year’s Day is a time for family reunions, gatherings and reflection and reaffirming bonds.” ~ Asian American Books
Some of the symbols of the holiday are:
- The Color Red – Red is seen everywhere; from the colorful paper lanterns to the tiny envelopes of lucky money.
- Traditional Costumes – Families often dress in traditional fashion to connect with their cultural roots, especially the younger children.
- Fireworks – Firecrackers are set off to “scare off the evil spirits of the past” but also as a symbol of this joyful time of year, similar to 4th of July in this country.
- Dragon/Lion Dance – It is believed that the loud beats of the drum and the deafening sounds of the cymbals together with the face of the dragon or lion dancing aggressively can evict bad or evil spirits.
- New Years Greetings– People are quick to impart on you a happy new year or hopes of great health and wealth in the coming year. They are especially common during the handing out of lucky money from elders to young children. So if you hear one of these three phrases – Chuc Mung Nam Moi, Gung Hay Fat Choy, or Saehae Bok Mani Paduseyo – do not be alarmed, someone is sending you good wishes!
Lunar New Year is a beautiful time of year and is celebrated in so many different ways across the world. There are many different superstitions and myths that come from this holiday. It’s great fun to share it with my in-laws as we join together to welcome a new day and a new year.