Lunar New Year: a family tradition

Le nouvel an lunaire : une tradition familiale

The lunar new year is the most important holiday of the year in much of Asia. Several celebrations take place to welcome the new year. The Lunar New Year is also a family tradition that dates back several centuries. This is the case in China and several Asian countries.

lunar new year

The lunisolar calendar

In East Asia, the timing of the celebration of the Lunar New Year is determined from the traditional chinese calendar. The New Year takes place around the end of January or in February. In South and Southeast Asia, the new year is set from the Hindu calendar. It takes place around mid-March and early April.

The Chinese new year

Lantern festival

In China, the Lunar New Year is the first day of the first month on the calendar. Festivities take place for fifteen days. They end with the lantern festival. The latter is a nocturnal celebration also known as the Little New Year. Children are in the spotlight during this holiday. In the company of their parents, they walk through the night with a lantern in their hand.

The lantern festival is both modern and traditional. Indeed, if the children sometimes walk with lanterns decorated with candles representing traditional charactersof Chinese culture, we can also see models bearing the effigy of heroes of contemporary tales and cartoons. Classic style lanterns are still lit by candle, but there are now some that are made of plastic and run on batteries.

Riddles are written on the lanterns and families try to solve them. The person who finds the solution to the riddle usually receives a gift. The game is practiced in all classes. It would date back to the Song dynasty. The Lantern Festival is also celebrated in broad daylight when various dances are organized, such as the boat dance, the lion dance, the dragon dance and the tambourine dance. We also walk on stilts.

New Years Eve

Each region has its own way of celebrating the Lunar New Year. The goal is to get life back on new ground and get rid of negative elements which have weighed down the last year. This is why the auspicious elements must be present throughout the festivities. The transition to the New Year takes place at night. The word for the year is also the name of a monster, Nian, which prowls through the night, forcing families to take refuge in their homes until morning.

In all regions, New Years Eve is celebrated with traditional dishes. A celebration follows overnight, which ensures longevity for family members. These nights are often busy playing mahjong and handing out gifts presented in red envelopes. We also light firecrackers and Bengal fires to repel negative influences. Most of the time, the eldest of the family is hosting for New Years Eve.

The New Year's Eve meal can only begin when the whole family has arrived. Empty seats represent family members who cannot attend the party. Among the dishes served, we must offer fish, which represents the surplus that will be available during the year. The dishes served are all intended to promote positive elements for the New Year, such as health or academic success.

As for gifts distributed in red envelopes, they usually contain cash. Tradition has it that the envelopes are given by the elder to the children. Gifts are also given to young people who are still single. The sums are modest and above all represent a way of bringing good luck for the coming year. The person who gives gifts also expresses wishes for a good future.

The firecrackers and sparklers are part of the tradition linked to New Years Eve, but in some cities they are now banned to avoid accidents. Some countries are trying to introduce electric models that do not seem to generate the same enthusiasm.

The first day of the year

Even if the whole family goes to bed late, you have to get up early for the first day of the year. This is an opportunity to visit the temple and possibly the graves of the parents if they are buried in the same area. The earlier the temple visit, the luckier the family will be during the year. In the temple, a stick of incense should be planted in the Incense burner as soon as you step inside.

The first day of the year is then devoted to visits. You have to start with the people most important to the family and the superiors. Tradition is somewhat lost in modern cities as greetings are increasingly made by telephone or the Internet.

It is good practice to wear red on the first day of the year. Most people wear new clothes. You don't have to clean your house. Any rubbish should not be swept outside the house, which would symbolize a loss.

Festivities for several days

Several festivities mark the days following the first day of the year. On the second day, it is traditional for married women to visit their families with their children and husbands. On the third day, in some regions, it is not recommended to make visits because they risk turning into arguments. On the eighth day, we celebrate at home or at the temple the birthday of the god of heaven.

Japanese new year

Chinese New Year

The Japanese New Year is also one of the most important holidays of the year. The festivities take place over several days. It has long been fixed from the Chinese calendar, but since the nineteenth century it has been based on the Gregorian calendar. However, some families continue to respect old traditions.

The Japanese New Year is based on good resolutions. A big cleaning was done in the weeks leading up to the end of the year. The visit to the temple takes place from midnight on the first day of the year. The first sake of the year is drunk here, intended to ensure good health for the year. Temples Buddhists ring their bell 108 times, for every sin.

Visits are held on the first day of the year and gifts are distributed to the children. We also put an image under their pillow representing the Takarabune, the ship of the seven gods of happiness. Greetings are also exchanged on postcards. Traditionally, on New Years the girls play with rackets while the boys have fun with kites.

Vietnamese New Year

The New Year in Vietnam is the most important holiday of the year. It is based on the Chinese calendar. The feast takes place on the first day of the new moon. The festivities are spread over several days. During this time, the golden dragon is said to cast out evil spirits so that the year begins in a good light. During the first days of the year, one should avoid uttering insults or rude words.

On this occasion, the whole family is busy cleaning the house. We then bake moon cakes that we will present on the ancestor altar before eating them as a family. The festivities officially take place over three days, but sometimes extend for several more days. During this period, family visits the pagoda and friends.

We must avoid showing up too early to friends. The first visitor has a reputation for bringing good or bad luck. Families therefore seek to invite someone known for their luck. As in China, children receive gifts in red envelopes and set firecrackers.

To chase away evil spirits, tradition has it that plant a bamboo in the middle of the house, which ensures that they will not come and settle there. At its end, we tie feathers or red ribbons. Bamboo also allows ancestors to find their way home so that they can come and celebrate the New Year's festivities.

Cambodian New Year

The Cambodian New Year is set from the Hindu lunar calendar. The first day of the new year takes place under the theme of the big march and corresponds to one of the gods represented by the twelve astrological signs who rule the destiny of the world. Meals are brought to the pagoda where Buddhist teaching is given. Families then pay homage to the Buddha.

Traditional games are then played in the afternoon. It’s also a rare opportunity for boys and girls to get to know each other. Holy water is also sprinkled to promote good luck for the coming year.


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