A Brief Overview of Lunar New Year
Lunar New Year has been celebrated for thousands of years. The holiday is observed in many countries, including Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, China, Malaysia, and more. Depending on the culture and the lunar calendar, Lunar New Year can be celebrated in January, February, March, April, September, or November, though February and April are the most common times.
Lunar New Year traditions focus on home and family, with many people returning to their hometowns to spend time with family members. Traditional activities vary from culture to culture, but often include exchanging red envelopes or silk pouches containing money, setting off fireworks, playing games, eating traditional dishes, cleaning the house, and holding parades with colorful costumes. In Chinese culture, the half-dragon, half-lion Nian appears, usually as a giant costume manned by multiple people. Loud noises, fire, and the color red are used to scare him away.
For many cultures, each new lunar year is marked by one of the 12 zodiac animals. Typically, the animals include the horse, ram or sheep, monkey, rooster or chicken, dog, boar or pig, rat or mouse, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, and snake. Some cultures have slight differences; in Vietnam, for example, a cat replaces the hare.
Today, many Asian families around the world celebrate Lunar New Year. While the holiday is widely celebrated in Asian countries, many cities in the United States hold large celebrations, too.