By: Rachel Spears
Gong hei fat choy! This Cantonese greeting meaning “wishing you great happiness and prosperity,” is used to celebrate the New Year but not when you might think. In the United States, people commonly celebrate the new year on January 1st, the first day of the Gregorian Calendar, but in other countries, this is not always the case.
The Lunar New Year, sometimes also called the Chinese New Year, marks the beginning of the year on the lunar calendar and is one of the most celebrated holidays in China as well as in other Asian countries like Korea and Vietnam. It marks the beginning of spring and the season of rebirth for many. Families often get together for large gatherings and meals to celebrate and give gifts, exchanged in little red envelopes called “hong bao” which means “red envelope” in Mandarin or “lai see” in Cantonese. These envelopes are more than just a way to exchange money, they are symbolic of good luck and prosperity in the future. A lot of the food eaten during the New year also symbolizes these things. Dumplings and oranges symbolize wealth while sweet rice balls symbolize family and reunion. Fireworks, lion dancers, and lanterns are also commonly associated with this holiday. This year the first day of the Lunar New year fell on February 1st but because the celebration is a fifteen-day long festival so you haven’t missed it all! The final day, this year on February 15th will mark the Lantern Festival, a fun tradition that began more than 2000 years ago. The Garnet Valley High School Asian Culture Club provides a fun way to get involved with celebrating holidays like these and is a great place to learn more about these traditions.
When asked about their zodiac sign many will respond with their astrological sign, mine is Leo, but in Asian cultures, there is a different system. Two cycles, one made up of twelve animals and the other made up of 5 elements, combine to create a larger, 60-year long cycle. This year, 2022, is the year of the Water Tiger. Water is said to bring prosperity while the tiger represents strength and bravery. Each year is different and I highly recommend looking into your Chinese zodiac.
For years, the Lunar New Year has been celebrated across America by millions yet it is not recognized as a national holiday but this year this might change. New York Congresswoman Grace Meng has introduced a bill that would make the Lunar New Year a Federal Holiday in the United States. The bill doesn’t specify a specific day as the Lunar New Year could fall on any day in January or February, but it does mark a step forward in recognizing more holidays from around the world.