Lunar holiday lights up traditional culture


Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Melody Tian

Lunar New Year is a holiday that begins with the first new moon between the end of January and the beginning of February, lasting a span of 15 days. It is celebrated by East and Southeast Asian cultures, including Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese communities, among others. This year, the holiday starts on Jan. 22.

Each year, one of 12 zodiac animals represents the Lunar calendar: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. People’s zodiacs are assigned the year they are born, and 2023 has been delegated the year of the Rabbit.

Lunar New Year has roots that can be traced back to about 3500 years ago in China. Though its exact beginning date is not recorded, there are legends and myths surrounding the holiday’s origin. 

According to the Lam Museum of Anthropology, a popular myth was about a mythical beast Nian who ate crops, livestock and even people on the eve of a new year. A wise old man figured out that Nian was afraid of loud noises and the color red, so people used firecrackers and put red scrolls and lanterns on their windows and doors to scare Nian away.

Some households hold rituals during the holiday to offer their ancestors food and paper icons. Elders usually hand out red packets, envelopes containing money, to children. People also like to eat foods containing glutinous rice, such as sticky rice dumplings and Tang Yuan (glutinous rice balls) since these foods represent togetherness.

Junior Julia Zhao said her favorite tradition is watching fireworks and firecrackers. Usually, each house would start their own fireworks, but she also enjoys watching her neighbor’s fireworks.

“My favorite type of firework is called the sparkler,” said Zhao. “They are small handheld fireworks that can be used by small children and elders.”

All fireworks also come in a variety of colors and Zhao said that her favorite ones were the red and gold ones.

President of Asian Student Association Olivia Park said she likes to play a board game called Yut Nori with her family.

“We like to bet money on winners too,” said Park. “It’s a competitive team game but it’s mostly based in luck, so it’s a fun experience.”