Happy Lunar New Year’s! 새해 복 많이 받으세요! 新年快樂!
오늘은 설날이다! Today is the Lunar New Year! Can you feel the excitement? Some of you might be asking, what exactly is Lunar New Year’s? Well, I’m glad you asked!
Lunar New Year is the first day of the lunar calendar. Lunar calendar? There’s more than one type of calendar? Yes, there is actually. In America, we follow the Gregorian calendar (365 days a year, leap year every 4 years, 12 months, 28-31 days each month). The Lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon-hence the lunar. The first day of a lunar month varies. For the Chinese calendar, the first day is when a new moon occurs during a particular time zone. For the Hindi calendar, the first is the day after the full moon.Each month is approximately 29.530589 days.
*Note: I’m not an expert on this, click on this website if you want to read more on lunar calendars:
Moving on now. I’m sure a lot of you heard of the Chinese New Year (a.k.a. the Chinese Lunar New Year)The Lunar New Year is celebrated by more than the just the Chinese. The Lunar New Year is also celebrated by the Koreans, Tibetans, Vietnamese, and the Mongolians. Of course, Lunar New Year celebrations are not solely held in China, Vietnam, South and North Korea, etc. There are Chinese, Koreans, Tibetans, Vietnamese, and Mongolians living throughout the world in different countries. The Chinese community in Indonesia and Malaysia celebrates the Lunar New Year, Chinese-Americans/Korean-Americans/Vietnamese-Americans (and so forth) in the United States celebrate the Lunar New Year, you get my point right?
If you noticed from years past, the Lunar New Year is never on the same day. Lunar New Year is the first day of the Lunar Year and like I said before, the calendar is based on the phases of the moon. So every year, the days will never be exactly the same as the year before. The Lunar New Year this year is February 10, 2013 (hence the reason for this post). In this post, I’m mainly going to focus on the Chinese New Year and Korean New Year.
Chinese New Year: 新年快樂! Gong Xi Fa Cai! Happy New Year in Mandarin, which actually means “congratulations and prosperity.” (*There’s numerous ways to say Happy New Year in Mandarin, not just “Gong Xi Fa Cai.” This year is the year of the snake.
The twelve zodiac signs are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig/boar.
The Chinese New Year (also known as the Spring Festival) is the time for celebrations which includes feasts, music, red envelopes, gift exchange, visiting relatives, fireworks, dances, decorations/ornaments, and lots of symbolism.
Food, of course, plays an important role in the Chinese New Year celebration (as it does for any culture or celebration. The Chinese eat foods that are symbolic. Here are SOME foods for instance:
Spring rolls and jiao zi symbolize wealth.
Chicken symbolizes happiness and marriage.
Noodles symbolize a good life.
Eggs symbolizes fertility. (Tea eggs)
Pomelo represents abundance, prosperity, and fertility.
Niangao symbolizes raising oneself “higher” in the coming year.
Red Envelopes: During the Chinese New Year, red envelopes /紅包 hongbao (usually decorated with gold characters-happiness and wealth ) filled with money are given to children, young people, and unmarried adults with no jobs from the older generations. The envelopes are red, because red symbolizes luck. Red envelopes are also given out on birthdays and weddings, and the amount of money depends on the recipient’s age and the relationship between giver-recipient.
Dances: There are two types of dances: dragon dances and lion dances. Dragon dances are performed to scare away the evil spirits. The Chinese view dragons as helpful and friendly creatures and symbolize luck, long life, and wisdom. is thought that the longer dragons are more lucky than smaller dragons. During the dragon dance, many people are needed to operate the dragon. The lion dance only needs two people to operate the lion. There are two types of “lion styles.” The Chinese Northern Lions (northern China)-northern lions have shaggy orange and yellow hair with a green bow (males) or red bow (females). This dance usually have more acrobatic movements and have stunts.The Southern Lion (southern China) resembles the Nian (a fierce horned monster). Its head is shaped like a dragon and has a drape. During performance, the Southern Lion thrusts its head to the sound of the drums and other percussion instruments. The colors of the dragon is usually red (bravery), gold (lively and dynamic spirit), and green (friendship and goodwill).
Decorations/Ornaments: Chunlian, lanterns, paper cuttings, Chinese calligraphy
The Chinese New Year is a celebrated for 15 days. To read what happens each day, click on the link below:
The Lantern Festival ends the 15 day celebration.
Alright, now let’s talk about the Korean New Year.
Korean New Year: The Korean New Year (know as 설날/seollal) is also the first day of the lunar calendar. Seollal is a three day celebration. Koreans also celebrate the solar/Gregorian New Year’s Day, but Seollal is a more important national holiday. Seollal is more of a family holiday. It is a time to pay respects to the ancestors and catch up with family members. During Seollal, Koreans wear hanboks (I’ll make a post on this later), perform ancestral rites, play folk games, give gifts, tell stories, and eat traditional foods.
Ancestral Rites: The morning is first start off with 제사/ancestral rite ceremony. Family members wearing their hanboks will gather in front of a ritual table and will place an ancestral tablet and ritual foods according to the ancestral laws on the table. Afterwards, the ancestral rites begin with 세배/ deep bows to the ancestors. Children will do 세배 to the elders (parents/aunts/uncles/grandparents/etc) and the elders will give them money as a Seollal gift. They will then proceed with offerings and prayers. After saying farewell, all will eat the ritual foods. The main dish eaten is 떡국/ddeokgook (rice cake soup). After you eat 떡국, you are one year older. So some children will eat two bowls, so they will be two years older. After eating, children will perform 세배 to the elders (parents/aunts/uncles/grandparents/etc) and the elders will give them 세뱃돈/ New Year’s money as a gift
After eating, the younger generation will pay respects to the elders. They take a deep bow and present the elders with gifts. The elders accept and offer them their offerings and blessings for a prosperous year.
Folk games: After doing ancestral rites, Korean will often play folk games. Some of these games are yutnori, jegichagi, neolttwigi, and paengichigi.
윷놀이/Yutnori-board game played with sticks
제기차기/Jegichagi-game played with the foot
파엔기치기/pa-engichgi-goal is to knock over the other person’s spinning top
Gifts: Some popular gifts given on Seollal are money (of course), ginseng, honey, health products, toiletry, spam, tuna, and hangwa (see below).
Food: There are numerous traditional dishes that can be eaten during Seollal. Some of these are rice, ddeokgook (see above), kimchi, mandu dumplings, Korean pancakes, hangwa, and many other dishes.
If you ever go to Korea for Seollal, make sure to visit the palaces, parks, and theme parks. Seollal is pretty much a pretty quiet day, besides family visiting relatives..But the palaces, parks, and theme parks are the busiest during Seollal; they offer tourists traditional games to play and events to enjoy.
If you know a Korean/visit a Korean community during the Lunar New Year, make sure to say “새해 복 많이 받으세요! (sae hae bong mah-ni bah-deu se yo)” to them. Or if you know someone who is Chinese/visit a Chinese community, make sure to say “新年快樂! (gong shee fa cai)” to them.