Lunar New Year is a traditional 15-day celebration which begins on the first day of the year according to the lunar or lunisolar calendar.  Often known as Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, this centuries-old holiday marks a time to gather with family to honor deities and ancestors. Lunar New Year festivities take place in countries and communities around the world including China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Tibet, Vietnam, and many others. This year, Lunar New Year begins on January 31st and continues until the Lantern Festival on February 14th.

Different countries have unique ways of celebrating this special holiday. In China for example, people usually gather for an annual reunion dinner with family and friends. Dumplings are a “must-have” food item on the dinner table. In some regions of China, the dinner meal also includes a traditional hot-pot element. Whether family members are out for school or work, the idea is to have everyone come together before New Year’s Eve. Houses are well-cleaned before the New Year in order to make way for good luck to enter the home. Traditional red paper-cuts and couplets also symbolize good fortune and are used to decorate windows and doors. Often people will watch the annual celebration ceremony via Television Live, exchange gifts (usually money in lucky red paper envelopes), and enjoy watching the fireworks. Legend says the half-dragon, half-lion monster “Nian” comes out of hiding during the Lunar New Year, so fireworks are used symbolically to scare him away.

Similarly, in Korea, Lunar New Year also marks a time for people to visit hometowns and spend time with relatives. The celebration in Korea however, is only 3 days and a key element is the performance of charye (an ancestral ritual). People often dress up in colorful traditional Korean clothing (hanbok) and eat a classic meal of Tteokguk– soup with sliced rice cakes. Traditional alcohol called soju (a welcoming spring) may also be consumed since Korean ancestors believed drinking it would drive out mysterious diseases and bad auras.

As mentioned, Lunar New Year is celebrated in many countries and territories around the world. For more information about Lunar New Year Celebrations in other countries, click here.

The Chinese Zodiac is also an important element of the New Year. The zodiac relates each lunar year to one of 12 animals and serves as a way of predicting the key strengths and attributes of that year. This year- 2014- is the year of horse. The spirit of the horse is respected because it is energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able. People who are born in zodiac years linked to the horse are believed to share the same qualities.

For more information and to find out which animal corresponds to your birth year according to the Chinese Zodiac, click here.

Lunar New Year celebrations have become common around the world, including in Canada. If you are looking for an opportunity to learn more about Lunar New Year and celebrate here on campus, we invite you to join us this week at Global Café! (See below for details)

Lunar New Year @Global Cafe

Join us for a special Global Cafe on Thursday January 30th, 3-5pm in WSS 2130. We will have coffee and tea as usual, plus some traditional Lunar New Year treats to share. This event has been planned with the help of a fantastic group of volunteers and will feature: a short presentation about the history and traditions of Lunar New Year, activities and games for everyone (you may win a lucky prize!), a special craft activity (to bring you luck in the coming year!), traditional music, and seasonal snacks. As always, all Western students are welcome and encouraged to drop-in so bring a friend or come by yourself to meet new people!

Post written by: Sherry Ma, Gloria Zhu, & Carol Cao