Everything You Need to Know About Lunar New Year 2018
By Daniele Cosentino on Feb 16, 2018
As we welcome the Year of the Dog in 2018, here is an introduction to the Lunar New Year aka Chinese New Year!
Read on to find out what and when is Lunar New Year, what the Year of the Dog means, the origin of the Chinese zodiac and how it is celebrated.
What is Lunar New Year?
Lunar New Year marks the first day in the new year according to the Lunar Calendar.
It is a celebration most commonly associated with China, hence the name Chinese New Year.
Calling the holiday Chinese New Year is misleading, as many countries in Asia and outside also celebrate the Lunar New Year.
Asian countries that celebrate the Lunar New Year include Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan and more! If a country has numerous Asian residents, it is highly likely there will be celebrations for Lunar New Year.
Cities with a Chinatown such as Toronto, Los Angeles, and London will definitely be hosting celebrations within the community. Each culture has their own name for the celebration.
The Chinese themselves have their own name and call it Spring Festival. Koreans call it Seollal. The common thread between all these cultures is that the Lunar New Year is not only a day of celebration but also a time for family.
When are the Dates for the Lunar New Year?
For the year 2018, the date is February 16th. Next year (2019) will see the Lunar New Year falling on February 5th.
The dates for the Lunar New Year can be confusing as it changes from year to year.
Since the date of the new year is decided by the Lunar calendar, it doesn't perfectly line up with the Gregorian calendar that we regularly use.
However, the dates consistently fall between the months January and February. Information on exact dates for upcoming Lunar New Years have already been calculated and are readily available on the internet.
As for the length of the celebration, that varies from country to country. Some countries provide 1 week of public holiday, others provide 1 day or no holiday at all.
Companies that deal with a lot of Chinese based clients will often have a holiday during this period as well, as their clients will all be on vacation. When in doubt, double-check with your internship supervisor or boss. Otherwise, assume it is a regular working day!
Why is 2018 the Year of the Dog?
The Chinese zodiac follows a 12-year cycle with each year represented by a different animal.
The twelve animals, in order, are as follows: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig.
The reason behind the chosen animals and their order vary, ranging from balancing yin and yang to a multitude of stories that discuss the origin and choosing of the Chinese zodiac.
So, 2017 was the Year of the Rooster and the next animal in the line-up is the Dog. Following that is the Pig, then it goes back to the first animal, the Rat.
The last Year of the Dog was 2006, the current one is 2018, and the next one will be in 2030.
On top of that, each zodiac sign is associated with an element: Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth.
The current element is Earth, so all the animals in this zodiac cycle including this year, are Earth animals. To give you an idea, the last Earth Dog before 2018 was in 1958.
Characteristics of people born under the Earth Dog zodiac include a serious personality, good at communication and responsible at work. So who decided the animals in the Chinese Zodiac?
Why is the Panda, one of the most iconic Chinese animals not included? Read on below to see why the slow and lazy Panda did not make it as a zodiac animal!
The Origin of the Lunar New Year's Chinese Zodiac
There are many variations of this story, but the major story elements remain the same.
The story goes: to select the 12 animals in the zodiac calendar, the Emperor hosted a race that went through the country and required crossing a great river before the finish line.
The Rat, the first animal in the zodiac and winner of the race, knew it could not swim across the river alone. So the Rat worked together with the ox to place first by using the Ox as a ride across the great river.
The Ox came in second behind the Rat, steadfast and strong, able to swim through the currents.
Third place went to the Tiger, a fierce competitor. Though swift running over land, the Rabbit came in fourth as the small animal struggled to cross the river.
Hopping from stone to stone, the Rabbit lucked out with a log that took him across. The Dragon, despite being able to fly, placed fifth.
This is because the Dragon took a detour during the race to help make rain for people suffering from a drought. The Snake knew it could not win without a plan, so it hitched a ride with the Horse.
Upon nearing the finish line, the Snake uncurled itself from the Horse's leg, startling it. Thus the Snake took sixth place, with the Horse following behind at seventh.
The following animals arrived at the finish line as a group. The Ram, the Monkey, and the Rooster knew they could not cross the river alone, so they agreed to work together.
Thus the Ram was eighth, followed by the Monkey and Rooster at ninth and tenth, respectively. At eleventh place was the Dog, who was an adept swimmer, but also easily distracted.
Enjoying the swim so much, the Dog took its time crossing and arriving at the finish line. Finally at the twelfth place was the Pig. Not a slow animal by any means, but the Pig had felt hungry in the middle of the race and so stopped to eat mid-way.
Having eaten, the Pig was so full that he felt sleepy and took a nap before waking up to finish the race. These 12 animals then became the ones represented in the zodiac calendar.
The Lion, who had overslept and missed the race lamented the missed opportunity. The emperor decided to give the Lion an honorary role in festivities hence the Lion Dance!
How Do People Celebrate the Lunar New Year?
As mentioned earlier, Lunar New Year is seen as a time for family. Not just close family, but often extended relatives as well.
For this reason, Lunar New Year is often a public holiday and traveling during this period of time can be expensive.
Everyone is traveling to visit their relatives or going on vacation together. For Asian families, Lunar New Year a close equivalent of Christmas.
Families gather together to enjoy time together and catch up. Compared to the Western idea of a family which is nuclear, it can be overwhelming. These family gatherings can be very, very large.
The Asian concept of a family often includes extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, in-laws, etc).
Food consumed differs from culture to culture, but here are some examples There is often a meaning behind the chosen foods, such as happiness, health or prosperity.
Traditional Chinese foods for this holiday include noodles, dumplings, spring rolls, and fish. The way you eat them is important too!
The length of the noodle symbolizes your life, so slurp long noodles instead of cutting or chewing. Korean food, on the other hand, places high importance on Ddeokguk or rice cake soup.
Consuming this soup is symbolic of aging a year. Koreans calculate age from the start of the year, as opposed to the actual date of birth.
So the new year is almost like a birthday! Home-cooked meals are a huge staple of Lunar New Year in family gatherings, however, you will also see many families going out together as well!
Even something as simple as a mandarin orange has aÂ meaning and is a common gift.
The Color Red
From decorations to signs announcing the Lunar New Year, to the clothing worn, you are probably seeing red everywhere!
This is because the color red is associated with wealth and prosperity. In the West, stock prices that are declining are red in color.
In East Asia (China, Japan, Korea) it is the opposite and rising stock prices are red. The abundance of the color red is meant to attract good fortune and joy!
This is why money is gifted in red envelopes, people dress in red and the decorations like lanterns are red in color.
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