Fortune, Health, and Prosperity: Finding Yours for the Lunar New Year
WORDS: NOAH PHAM | ILLUSTRATIONS: JOY LI
Growing up in a Vietnamese home, the traditional New Year’s holiday was always overseen in my household. The countdown, champagne, fireworks, and watching the ball drop on TV was cool and all, but as an Asian American, the real new year’s rests a few weeks after January 1st.
The Lunar New Year, which plays according to the Chinese solar base calendar, usually rolls around late January to early February. It is a holiday that is celebrated amongst Chinese traditions alongside several other Asian countries. This is a holiday that my family, and let alone over 17 million other Asian Americans and immigrants, do not mess around for. It can span to over a week’s long celebration of traditional dragon dances, red envelopes, lots of bowing to your ancestors, and a copious amount of firecrackers that will make the Hindenburg look like child’s play.
The celebration dates back to over 3,000 years ago, during the Shang Dynasty in China. The solar calendar revolved around the cropping seasons, hence this holiday took place towards the early moments of the Spring season. As this holiday grew, traditions and tales did also. It became a calender restart for crops to then a remembrance towards ancestors, and now a festive celebration to rid of the past year’s evil spirits, and to welcome good fortune, health, and prosperity into the new moon year.
Red is the color that represents the new year. In tales, the “year” is represented as a mythical creature with the body of an ox and the head of a lion and would harm families, crops, and villaging animals. The creature is terrified of this color so the story has it, that is why we see so much red on envelopes, traditional lanterns, outfits, and firecrackers during this time; to fend away the evil spirits from the new crop and moon cycle.
If you find yourself at a friend’s celebration or celebrating yourself, here’s a few tips to properly enjoy the holiday with true etiquette:
- Pay respects to the ancestors. There’s usually a shrine set up in the space you are visiting, normally with dishes of food laid before them to spiritually enjoy with the rest of the family. Even if you’re not religious, grab and light an incense, light it up, and send them some good energy for the new year.
ALWAYS greet elders. The first thing you do when you enter the gathering is to greet from oldest to youngest. Even if you don’t know who is the oldest, it’s usually the geezer in his reclining chair watching History channel reruns. Give them a hug and a smile, and if you really want to impress them, a bow will do.
- Take whatever food is given to you. Do come into the setting with an open mind and palette. Dishes aren’t too crazy off the spectrum; some may look out of the ordinary, but these dishes are a true delicacy and only come once a year. You’re already in this setting, so might as well enjoy it.
If you’re a visitor and the red envelopes, start going around, do not panic. They’re filled with a little bit of cash from the elders to bless the younger generation for wealth towards the new years. Don’t feel like you need to bring some too. It’d be a plus, but expect yourself walking out with a little pocket change after the evening. And DON’T refuse the envelope. That’s the worst thing you can do. Just smile at the elders and come with open hands.
Lunar New Year’s has also made its way into today’s contemporary culture. As we’re about to ring in the year of the rat, DSM, Off White, and Stray Rats are paying respects with exclusive garments that are available during this time.
If your resolutions for 2020 have fallen through the cracks, and you haven’t been able to work out 5 times a week like you said you would, here’s somewhat of another chance. Bring in the good etiquette and better fortunes for your Lunar New Year’s celebration