Each year, billions of people around the world mark the Lunar New Year with celebrations, special foods, and time with extended family. The Year of the Rabbit, or the Year of the Cat in Vietnam, begins on January 22, 2023. Lunar New Year festivities typically last anywhere from a few days to two weeks, ending on the first full moon of the lunar calendar.
The holiday is widely celebrated throughout China, but there are many other Asian countries that also observe Lunar New Year with their own cultural traditions. If you plan to study or celebrate this holiday with your students, consider learning about customs from other Asian cultures to enrich the learning experience!
Called Seollal in Korean, Lunar New Year is typically a three-day celebration where people pay their respects to ancestors and elders. Families gather together dressed in traditional clothing, or hanbok, and adults usually give children gifts of money.
Preparing and eating meals together is also a large part of the celebration, where families often have special foods like rice cake soup (ddeokguk), Korean dumplings, and glass noodles. Playing games like Yut Nori, a board game played with wooden sticks, are common ways that people spend time together during the holiday.
Lunar New Year in Taiwan is also a big celebration with extended family. In the weeks leading up to the new year, families clean their houses thoroughly, which is thought to clear out bad luck from last year and make room for good luck in the coming year. Like Seollal, elders give children gifts of money, but in red envelopes. Red is considered a lucky color, so red clothing and decorations like lanterns are used to bring prosperity in the new year.
A large meal with special foods is also common in Taiwan. Nian gao, or dumplings, is a popular dish, along with pineapple. Fireworks displays can be seen all over the country on New Year’s Eve, welcoming in the new year.
Lunar New Year, or Tet in Vietnam, is one of the largest celebrations of the year. Similar to other countries, cleaning and sprucing up your home to bring good luck in the new year is common leading up to Tet. Families adorn their homes with red and gold lanterns and other decorations and prepare special foods.
Like in other cultures, children receive lucky money in red envelopes from adults. Traditional costumes, like the áo dài, a silk tunic worn over pants, are worn by both men and women for the holiday. Flowers are an important part of Tet, as they symbolize good luck and prosperity for the coming year. Peach blossoms and kumquat trees are put in offices and homes to symbolize wealth and happiness.
In the Philippines, Lunar New Year is widely celebrated by the Tsinoy, or Chinese Filipino, community. Extended families gather together for big meals and celebrations. Tikoy, or sticky rice, is a staple dish because the stickiness is thought to help bind families together. Young children receive angpao, or red envelopes, with money inside from adults. It is also customary to pay off all debts before the new year.
A tradition unique to the Philippines is wearing polka dots for the Lunar New Year, since the round shape represents good luck. Families also prepare round fruits for the New Year’s Eve meal to bring prosperity and wealth.
The Lunar New Year comes with many rich cultural traditions from all over the world. We hope you will get to explore some of them with your students! For more ideas on celebrating this holiday with students and colleagues, see this blog post.