Lunar New Year

Chinese New Year, also called Lunar New Year, is an annual 15-day festival in China and Chinese communities around the world that begins with the new moon that occurs sometime between January 21 and February 20 according to Western calendars with festivities lasting until the following full moon. This year Chinese New Year occurs on Saturday, February 10th in many of the countries that celebrate it.

The Facts

China’s Lunar New Year is known as the Spring Festival or Chūnjié in Mandarin, while Koreans call it Seollal and Vietnamese refer to it as Tết.

The holiday began as a time for feasting and to honor household and heavenly deities, as well as ancestors. 

The holiday is sometimes called the Lunar New Year because the dates of celebration follow the phases of the moon. 

Lunar New Year is one of the most important celebrations of the year among East and Southeast Asian cultures, including Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean communities, among others. 

The origins of the Chinese New Year are steeped in legend. One legend is that thousands of years ago a monster named Nian (“Year”) would attack villagers at the beginning of each new year. The monster was afraid of loud noises, bright lights, and the colour red, so those things were used to chase the beast away, therefore, often include firecrackers, fireworks, and red clothes and decorations.

Each year in the Lunar calendar is represented by one of 12 zodiac animals included in the cycle of 12 stations or “signs” along the apparent path of the sun through the cosmos. 

The 12 zodiac animals are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. In addition to the animals, five elements of earth, water, fire, wood and metal are also mapped onto the traditional lunar calendar. Each year is associated with an animal that corresponds to an element.

The year 2024 is slated to be the year of the dragon. The dragon comes up every 12 years. Dragon is powerful, endlessly energetic full of vitality, goal-oriented yet idealistic and romantic, and a visionary leader.

How the Chinese New Year is Observed

Each culture celebrates the Lunar New Year differently with various foods and traditions that symbolize prosperity, abundance, and togetherness. 

Since the mid-1990s people in China have been given seven consecutive days off work during the Chinese New Year. This week of relaxation has been designated Spring Festival, a term that is sometimes used to refer to the Chinese New Year in general.

The Spring Festival has New Year festivities to usher out the old year and are meant to bring luck and prosperity in the new one.

During the 15-day celebration people feast with relatives, watch parades and pray for good fortune in the year ahead.

There are family banquets and outdoor spectacles featuring firecrackers, fireworks and often dancing dragons. 

People decorate their houses with red for good luck and children are given money in bright red envelopes.

Since the dragon is a Chinese symbol of power and good fortune, many areas of the country have dragon dancing, during which a long, colorful dragon puppet is paraded through the streets, as the highlight of festivities.

Celebrations last for two weeks, ending on February 24th, this year with the Lantern Festival, which marks the full moon.

Some households hold rituals to offer food and paper icons to ancestors. Others post red paper and banners inscribed with calligraphy messages of good health and fortune in front of, and inside, homes.

Foods made from glutinous rice are commonly eaten, as these foods represent togetherness. Other foods symbolize prosperity, abundance and good luck.

Among the other Chinese New Year traditions is the thorough cleaning of one’s home to rid the resident of any lingering bad luck.

The last event held during the Chinese New Year is called the Lantern Festival, during which people hang glowing lanterns in temples or carry them during a nighttime parade. 

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