Further Reading
February 04, 2019

Let's get cultured: Celebrating Lunar New Year

Let’s get cultured: Celebrating Lunar New Year

In the current times, it is trendy to stay #woke and #cultured. We couldn’t think of a better time to promote this additional knowledge with our community than the widely celebrated Lunar New Year. So, let’s take a little pause and go #moon on the Lunar calendar.

Why is the Year Named After an Animal?

You probably have already heard of “the year of (insert an animal here)”. The animal isn’t randomly decided. There are 12 animals that come from Asian folklore that tell the story of 12 animals participating in a race (unfortunately, this was before the ages of live broadcast). Each of the 12 lunar new years is named after each animal, coming from the 1st animal to finish the race, to the last. The pig came last, so this year marks a complete cycle of 12 lunar new years.

What is Lunar New Year?

Lunar New Year, often called Chinese New Year, is marked as the first of January according to the moon-based Lunar calendar. Contrary to the popular belief, traditional Lunar calendar is lunisolar – meaning it’s based on both the phase of the moon and Earth’s rotation around the sun. This additional factor allows the calendar to have around 354 days instead of the 365 days as the Gregorian calendar. The different number of days in a year makes the Lunar New Year happen on the different Gregorian day every year. Hence, many residents of Asian countries flip through the calendar every year to check the day and better plan vacations. So, how do these countries celebrate Lunar New Year?

Lunar New Year in China

China: Chinese New Year, often celebrated as Spring Festival, is one of the largest festivals to happen around the world. People celebrate everything spring represents – a fresh start, planting new harvests, and perhaps the end of grueling cold months. Traditionally, Chinese New Year was a day to pray to the ancestors, who were often thought to have godly powers to watch over the household. This tradition becomes much more interesting with the myth of a brave boy who fought a monster. Years before, Chinese New Year Eve was plagued by a monster that instilled fear in people’s hearts. Many people hid in their homes until one brave boy fought off the monster using firecrackers. To celebrate this, the Chinese set off many firecrackers at midnight to chase away bad luck. Many often burn fake money to honour their ancestors. The festival that lasts 16 days also encourage families to spend their time together. At the time, the world witnesses the largest human migration of the year. Many travels to their family homes for Chinese New Year Eve to attend a family dinner that often sees fish and dumplings as some of the dishes, that represents wealth and good luck. The meal is followed by desserts that are associated with wealth and good luck, often by wordplay in their names or their shapes. During this time, certain activities are considered taboo. Getting haircuts or using sharp objects, swearing and using unlucky words, along with breaking objects are discouraged. However, children enjoy more benefits as they receive pretty much the biggest airdrop ever – lucky money in red envelopes.

Lunar New Year in Korea

Korea: Known as “Suhlnal”, Lunar New Year celebration in Korea is short compared to China. It is celebrated for 3 days, as many also travel to the countryside to visit family members. During this time, the capital Seoul often feels empty while the roads down south become packed with traffic. On New Year, Koreans start the morning with fresh showers and dressing in new clothes. This symbolizes washing away bad luck and starting fresh. Use of firecrackers are not very common, as Koreans prefer to start the New Year on a calm note. This perhaps goes along with the country being referred to as “the Land of the Morning Calm”. Koreans eat rice cake soup for breakfast, as the chewy texture of the rice cake is believed to help good luck stick. The common belief says each bowl of rice cake soup (Ddeukgook) represents getting 1 year older. Hence, the hungry ones often hear the joke “you are now 2 years older”. Then, Koreans dress in their best attire and give new year blessing to their elders in a special form of bowing (juhl). The bowing sees a person’s knees and elbows on the ground, and the forehead also touching the ground. This symbolizes ultimate respect. The elders would give blessings, and the youngers return the blessing. Children also often receive lucky money in white envelopes. The white envelops do not symbolize much, yet it is the most common as they are readily available.

Lunar New Year in Vietnam

Vietnam: Called “Tet”, Vietnamese Lunar New Year is one of the biggest holidays in the country and the most popular. “Tet” is a shortened word that means “First Morning of the First Day” in Sino-Vietnamese. Like in other countries, Vietnamese also travel to see their families. However, there are strict guidelines for entering someone else’s house. Vietnamese strongly believe that the first guest to enter the house on Tet determines the luck for the family of the year. Hence, it is strongly advised to not enter someone’s house without an invitation. According to Vietnamese beliefs, the luck on Tet determines the luck for the rest of the year. Therefore, everything during Tet must be carefully coordinated. After exchanging special Tet greetings, children receive money in red envelopes. The homes are decorated with different flowers to symbolize blossoms of good luck. Then, families travel to the burial sites of ancestors to clean the grave as a sign of respect. The streets are filled with loud noises from firecrackers, drums, and gongs, as people try to make as much noise as possible to ward off evil spirits. Vietnamese would often see large bamboo poles on the street, with decorations on top. The celebrations are paired with traditional foods such as sticky rice wrapped in Dong leaves or banana leaves, roasted watermelon seeds, pickled onions and cabbages, coconut candy, peanut brittle, and red sticky rice. All these dishes symbolize breaking of bad luck, and attraction of good luck throughout the year.

And Many More…

Of course, there are many other countries that celebrate the Lunar New Year such as Singapore and Malaysia. This article would be a very long read, as each country has its own traditions. However, the unifying theme is clear: family, unity, and new beginnings. As we celebrate Lunar New Year with our Asian communities, we wish everyone a happy Lunar New Year and only the best for the rest of the year. MXC will continue to deliver exciting and great results throughout the year, as we refresh our mind today to focus on leading the Future of IoT. Happy Lunar New Year!

Siwon Kim