How is the Lunar New Year celebrated?
In China, the New Year is usually celebrated in the beginning of February, literally right before spring arrives, which is where the name the Spring Festival came from. In preparation for the holiday, homes were thoroughly cleaned to get of "huiqi," or bad luck, and people will almost decorate everything in RED, since red stands for good luck. Cleaning was also meant to appease the gods who would be coming down from heaven to make inspections and a sign of “new” beginning. Parents would give money-filled red envelops to their children as symbol of having a new prosperous year.
Similarly, in Japan, the Lunar New Year is usually celebrated during the first full moon of the new year, on the 15th day of the first lunar month (approximately mid-February), but the dates can vary from year to year. There, parents would also give money to their children in specially decorated envelops and hand out a small pouc of mochi (a type of small pastry made from sticky rice) and mandarin to spread joy and happiness.
The celebration usually starts before the New Year takes place and will last for several weeks. There are street performances—such as the famous dragon and lion dance—in certain parks, myriad food stands, and small vendors that sell a whole range of goods from pet lizards to discounted clothing. It is a time for the whole family to relax, enjoy each other’s company, and anticipate for a new year of happiness and good fortune.
Famous Lunar New Year Dishes
The Lunar New Year cannot be what it is without its variety of delectable dishes, especially in China. For instance some of the must-have dishes include fish, dumplings, noodles, rice cakes, meat and an assortment of vegetables. The fish stands for prosperity, noodles stand for longevity and dumplings stand for wealth. No wonder it usually takes a Chinese family days to prepare for the entire New Year’s meal, since there is literally enough food to feed the whole entire family, including extended relatives!
In Korea, the Lunar New Year is also considered as the most significant holidays. The main dish is tteokguk, a traditional soup made with sliced rice cakes, beef, egg, vegetables or other ingredients. In Korea, eating tteokguk on the New Year's Day is believed to add a year to one's age. People often ask each other, "How many servings of tteokguk have you had?" as a fun way to ask each other's age. Surprisingly, soju (a type of Korean alcoholic beverage) is also widely used during this time, since soju means a welcoming spring. Korean ancestors thought that if they drank Soju, they could drive out mysterious diseases and bad auras.
The 12 magical zodiacs
A very interesting part of the Lunar New Year is the unique zodiac that represents the upcoming year. There are twelve zodiacs together (in the order of rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, chicken, dog, pig) which are very similar to the twelve astrological signs in the Western calendar. According to the traditional Chinese belief, each zodiac animal bears specific characteristics that can describe a person’s personality and even has the power to predict the fortunes for the upcoming year.
Year of the Horse
2014 is the year of the horse and the horse is one of people’s favorite animals. The spirit of the horse is recognized to be energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able. At the same time, people born in the year of the horse have great communicating techniques and always want to be in the limelight. No wonder people like Jackie Chan and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger from Harry Potter) are born in the year of the horse—they are energetic, hard working, and attract loads of attention!