Celebrate Lunar New Year, Also Known as Chinese New Year, by Taking Part in These Five Holiday Traditions

This Chinese New Year begins February 1 and celebrates the start of the year of the Tiger.

family sitting at table eating food for lunar new year
Photo: Asia Vision / Getty Images

Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year, is often considered the most important holiday in China. A period to honor tradition and celebrate, this year's holiday begins on February 1 and will last for approximately two weeks. While the way that the holiday is observed can differ by region, there are a few ways anyone can celebrate what lies at the heart of Lunar New Year celebrations around the world: family, food, and new beginnings.

Gather (Outdoors or Virtually)

For a traditional celebration, Joanne Kwong of Pearl River Mart, says family members would travel home to gather with friends and family for a big New Year's Eve dinner, but this year, a virtual celebration works as well. "You can cook if you like, or better yet gather everyone for a special Lunar New Year meal at a local restaurant," she says. "Many chefs bring out their best dishes only for Lunar New Year!" While most of us won't be dining out this year due to COVID-19, Kwong says that many establishments will still offer their special Lunar New Year meals to-go or to eat outdoors.

Eat Lucky Foods

Speaking of dining, another way to celebrate Lunar New Year is by finding ways to increase your luck for the year ahead. "One easy and delicious way to do this is by working your way through a list of lucky foods," Kwong says. Dumplings, fish, long noodles, and spring rolls are among the many foods that make up that list. "Chinese people love homophones and symbolism so many lucky foods sound like lucky words in Chinese or look like symbols of wealth or good health or happiness," she says. "For example, dumplings look like ingots, the old Chinese currency, so represent wealth. Eat lots of dumplings to get rich in the new year!"

Spread Luck to Others

During the New Year, it is believed that luck begets luck, which makes it important to wish others good luck. "People greet others with happy new year wishes," says Kwong. "Elders and married couples will give bright red envelopes filled with money to children and unmarried singles," she says. "All kids love Lunar New Year because they know they will get some cold hard cash."

Take Up Tai Chi

Tai Chi is used as a form of self-defense as well as a meditative exercise, according to Bill Flora, director, USA, Hong Kong Tourism Board. Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region controlled by The People's Republic of China and observes many Chinese traditions, like Tai Chi. The practice uses soft and graceful movements that are coordinated in a way to achieve harmony of the mind, body, and soul. "Tai chi is beneficial in building endurance, agility, and strength, even though it is seemingly harmless like a slow dance," he says. "To try your hand at this healthy tradition [that's a perfect way] to enter the New Year, there are plenty of virtual classes and easy online videos."

Out with the Old

Before the first day of the New Year, Kwong says many people busy themselves with completing old tasks as a representation of getting rid of everything from the past year that was negative or unhappy. "It's a time to repay debts, settle grudges, and change situations or relationships that were negative," she says. "It's also a time to clean the house, buy new clothes (preferably something in red), and cut your hair." It's considered bad luck to sweep, cut anything, or even bathe on the first day of the new year.

Wear Red

Speaking of the color red, depending on the year of your birth Linjie Deng, a Chinese multi-talented conceptual artist in New York City, you'll want to be especially sure to ring in the new year wearing the bold shade. If you were born in 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962, 1950, or 1938, then you were born during the Year of the Tiger; that means this year could be full of bad luck for you, Deng explains. "It's traditionally believed that it helps to wear the color red." If you don't like the color red, or don't want anyone to guess your age, he says you can hide your red apparel while still reaping the rewards. "For me, red underwear is the best solution," he says, adding that you'll want to make sure that the item was a gift, and not something you purchased for yourself.

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