Where the New Year starts with the Moon – Celebrating Lunar New Year in Asia

The Lunar New Year, also known as the Chinese New Year, is an ancient celebration that has been passed down through generations, steeped in tradition, culture, and symbolism. It is a time of reunion, renewal, and hope, as families and communities come together to honor their ancestors and welcome the new year.

This year, the Lunar New Year began on January 22nd, marking the start of the Year of the Water Rabbit. The holiday is celebrated by over 1 billion people worldwide, with festivities taking place in countries such as China, Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia but also Mongolia and India.

The lunar calendar originates in China and was first introduced in by the Shang Dynasty roundabout 3500 years ago. Since the beginnings in China, the calendar has spread over many parts of Asia.

The year of the Water Rabbit

The Chinese zodiac is a system of 12 animal signs that is used to represent the 12-year cycle of the lunar calendar. Each year is associated with one of the 12 signs and is believed to be influenced by the characteristics of the animal. The rabbit, which is the fourth animal in the zodiac cycle, is known for its gentleness, compassion, and refinement.

But not only the zodiac signs are of importance. Each year also has its own element.  

The teachings of the five elements, also known as the Five Phases or Wu Xing, is an important aspect of Chinese philosophy, medicine, and astrology. The five elements are wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Each element is associated with certain characteristics and is believed to influence various aspects of life, including health, emotions, and relationships.

The Year of the Water Rabbit is expected to be a time of change, growth, and emotional intensity. It is important to stay adaptable, open, and honest during this time and to take care of one’s emotional well-being. With the gentle, refined and compassionate nature of the rabbit, and the fluidity of water, it may be a year that requires some emotional resilience, but it may also bring opportunities for greater intimacy and emotional connection.

The Tradition and Symbolism of Lunar New Year

One of the most iconic symbols of the Lunar New Year is the dragon dance. The dragon dance is a traditional performance that features a large dragon costume, typically operated by a team of dancers. The dragon is believed to bring good luck and prosperity and is often featured in parades and other events during the Lunar New Year. As a symbol, the dragon represents power, strength, and good fortune.

The Lunar New Year around the World

Before people who follow the Lunar Calendar are ready to enter the new year, a ritual cleaning of the house is mandatory. It is believed that cleaning the house before the Lunar New Year will sweep away any bad luck and make room for good luck to enter. Many people use a bamboo stick to clean their homes as bamboo’s hollow stems symbolize a clean slate and the bamboo itself is a symbol of resilience, flexibility, and longevity in East Asian mythology.

Something for the stomach

Food is an important part of the Lunar New Year celebration. Traditional dishes such as dumplings, fish, and glutinous rice cakes are served and shared between friends, family and neighbors.

But the food is not only food on this meaningful day. For example, dumplings are often shaped like ancient Chinese money, symbolizing wealth and prosperity. Fish is also a common dish, as the Chinese word for fish, „yu,“ sounds similar to the word for surplus, making it a symbol of abundance. Glutinous rice cakes, or „nian gao,“ are also a popular dish, as the name sounds similar to the phrase „higher year,“ symbolizing an increase in status or wealth.

One of the most common traditions on Lunar New Year is the exchange of red envelopes filled with money, known as „hongbao.“ The red color of the envelope symbolizes good luck and is believed to ward off evil spirits. The giving of hongbao is also a way to express love and gratitude to family members, particularly children and unmarried adults. Red decorations, such as lanterns and banners, are also used to decorate homes and streets, adding to the festive atmosphere.

The Lunar Calendar and its Significance

The Lunar New Year is based on the lunar calendar, which follows the cycles of the moon. In contrast, the solar calendar, which is used in the West, follows the cycles of the sun. The lunar calendar has been used in Asia for thousands of years and is closely tied to the agricultural cycle. Generally, the lunar calendar is considered more accurate than the solar calendar, as the cycles of the moon are more consistent.

The moon cycle is also closely tied to the concept of yin and yang, the balance and interdependence of all things. The lunar calendar is seen as a way to align oneself with the natural rhythms of the universe, promoting harmony and balance in one’s life.

Lunar New Year is a celebration that is deeply rooted in tradition, culture, and symbolism. From dragon dances to traditional foods, the holiday is a time of coming together, honoring ancestors, and welcoming the new year with a sense of renewal and hope. As we welcome the Year of the Rabbit, may it bring good luck, prosperity, and balance to all.

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