By Houa “Manifesto” Vang, Contributing Writer

In many Asian cultures, New Year’s Day is celebrated on the first day of the lunisolar calendar instead of the Gregorian Calendar. This holiday goes by many names -Chinese New Year, Spring Festival, Lunar New Year, or Tet Nguyen Dan- to list a few, but are all celebrated on the same date. Here are three things you may see during this time:

Red Envelopes

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If you have ever received a red envelope before, you may know that sometimes it contains some special cash called lucky money. It is usually given  to children from adults and to younger and unmarried family members from married couples. Different cultures and individual families may give red envelopes in an assortment of ways. The history of red envelopes varies upon cultures and time. One legend from China says that a “magical and evil entity that was defeated” by a young orphan during the Sung Dynasty in China. He was gifted a red envelope with money by elders. Another legend says that the color red from the envelope was said to keep a beast called Nien, who would eat people on New Year’s Eve, away. There is even a theory from China is that during the Quing Dynasty, elders gave children one hundred coins weaved into the shape of a dragon. Later on, they switched to paper money because of the inconvenience of coin money.

Lion Dances

A lion dance is performed with two dancers. The lion dance performance is thought to bring good luck since the lion is an auspicious animal in many Asian cultures. It was said that before the Han Dynasty (202BC – 220AD), there were lions upon the Silk Road trade. The people mimicked the appearance and movements of the animal.  Lion dances were considered a court dance in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and often used drums, cymbals and gongs, which have become the basis of modern day performances.

Manifesto_Lion Dance

Offerings and Sacrifices

It is not uncommon to see offerings and sacrifices made on Lunar New Year. Food is prepared and placed at an altar for ancestors to eat. Candles are lit and silent prayers are said. Alters face the doors so that the ancestors can come in.

Just because the origins of these holidays are from Asia, does not mean you have to be Asian to celebrate these holidays. Why not try some of the traditions above? There are also multiple public events celebrating Lunar New Year around the world that you can get involved in too. Wishing you happiness and health this year!


Featured Image: http://sacramento.carpediem.cd/events/5547688-lunar-new-year-2018-at-stones-gambling-hall/

Article Images: 

  • Angpao, Hongbao, Chinese Red Envelop with Money. Retrieved from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Angpao,_Hongbao_Chinese_Red_Envelop_with_Money.jpg
  • 20091004 lion dance Hong Kong Kowloon 6779. Retrieved from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:20091004_lion_dance_Hong_Kong_Kowloon_6779.jpg

Sources: 

  • Chinese New Year Lion Dance. Retrieved from: https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/special-report/chinese-new-year/new-year-lion-dance.htm
  • Black, B., Levine, D., Oh, J., and Wei, A. Red Envelope. Retrieved from: http://www.anthropology.uci.edu/~wmmaurer/courses/anthro_money_2006/envelopes.html