On February 12, 2021, we are celebrating the New Year all over again!
It was only a month and a half ago when I celebrated the traditional New Year’s Eve countdown. Or was I mistaken? 2021 has already been so jampacked with events that it seems so long ago! (Even though it was just a few weeks.)
This concept of two new year celebrations has been the norm throughout my life and for most Chinese people around the world. I want to explain how we celebrate the Lunar New Year and how it differs from the standard new year celebrations.
Chinese culture goes by the Lunar calendar and because of this, our new year celebrations are on different dates each year. If look at the Gregorian calendar as a comparison, the new year always falls on January 1, but that is not the case for Chinese culture.
There are quite a few differences in how we celebrate and usher in our New Year. Most notably, we go about telling each other season’s greetings, which is our main way of wishing each other an abundance of both health and wealth for the new year.
The weeks preceding the actual Lunar New Year bring a spike in supermarket visits to buy as many provisions as possible. No, we don’t suddenly become hoarders before the Lunar New Year. The reason we stock up is that the holidays grind all businesses to a halt; this includes supermarkets and food places. If you do not stock up for the holidays, you will run the risk of not having anything to eat.
The other reason for frequent grocery runs is that the week of the actual Lunar New Year is when we visit our relatives. So traditionally, folks will prepare enough food for all the guests. This is also the period where you will get to connect with all the lovely relatives you have not seen for the better part of the year. Conversation can sometimes devolve to a stage where (parents especially) compete to find out who is better at humble bragging.
ALL ABOUT THE LUCK
The Chinese have certain cultural practices that we abide by. These include not speaking vulgarities during this period (because it will attract bad luck) and using lots and lots of the color red in everything. Red denotes luck, so approximately 90% of the things you see for the Lunar New Year come in the color red. For Chinese people, this period of time is all about enhancing our good luck probability. Forget all of the things you learned in your statistics classes – our culture has it figured out. We have lucky foods and good luck practices too!
On top of luck, we have gambling. Gambling is a big part of Chinese culture because it allows you to test your luck against others. All the steps you’ve followed to increase your luck and fortune will bear fruit in this battle!
Admittedly, gambling between family and friends does bring out the competitive side. Sometimes, your good wishes for the other person fly right out the window as you focus on the winnings at hand.
Winners can take satisfaction in knowing that they will have a prosperous new year, while losers can reflect on what they did to have such bad luck (maybe they didn’t deposit their money on the best auspicious date) and can look forward to revenge in the next Lunar New Year.
This year is the Year of the Ox. May this year bring with it the same qualities of the ox: hard work, intelligence, reliability, and overall, humility.