Lunar New Year
Lunar New Year is the first day of the year in the lunar calendar, as the name suggests. It was first celebrated around 202 BC to 220 AD, within the time of the Han Dynasty. This was only the first recorded instance, so it may have been celebrated even earlier (we just don't know!). Traditionally, people would put up decorations to bring good luck, offer sacrifices like food to ancestors, and eat a family reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve to celebrate the holiday.
Lunar New Year occurs at roughly the same time each year. It’s usually sometime in late January or early February, and this year is no exception. The first day of the first month of the lunar calendar falls on January 22nd, earlier than last year’s Lunar New Year by quite a lot (February 1st)! According to the Chinese zodiac, this year is the year of the rabbit, which comes around once every twelve years. Those who are born in the year of the rabbit are said to be modest and have good relationships with the people around them. They tend not to be irritated easily, and they like to avoid quarrels. They are most compatible with people born in the year of the goat, dog, and pig. Next year will be the year of the dragon, which is commonly viewed as one of the luckiest years in the Chinese zodiac. This is because the ancient emperors would call themselves the real dragon, son of the god (真龙天子).
Lunar New Year is an ancient holiday, and there are many traditions that come with it, including the afore-mentioned family reunion dinners, which comprise classic dishes such as fish, dumplings, spring rolls, tang yuan (sweet rice balls), and nian gao (glutinous rice cake). Fish symbolizes that you will always have a surplus, since the word 鱼 (fish) sounds like 余 (surplus) [from the saying 年年有余]. Dumplings represent money since they can look like Chinese ingots. Spring rolls are very similar, and look like gold bars on the dinner table. Having tang yuan means that your family will be sticking together in the new year, and nian gao means that you will improve this year. Soon after dinner, people set off firecrackers to scare away the evil spirits and, later on, fireworks to celebrate the new year. Elders give the younger generation red envelopes filled with money, and, as thanks. the younger generation bow - but only in very formal and traditional instances (normally they would just say thank you).
Here at Edgemont, the Edgemont Chinese Association (ECA) hosts a lunar new year festival each year (with the exception of when there was COVID and everything was online). This year, ECA’s lunar new year celebration will be in the Greenville Elementary APR on January 29th, 2-4 pm Tickets can be purchased for $10 per adult and $5 per child at the entrance! Refreshments and prizes will be provided for various games along with programs representing Chinese heritage & celebrations.
There are also lion dances at the elementary schools, at the end of which candy is thrown! Traditionally, lion dances were meant to scare away evil spirits (much like firecrackers), but have evolved into something that celebrates the new year and shows the Chinese spirit. Other places to celebrate the Lunar New Year in Edgemont are at the Westchester Government’s celebration, OCA’s celebration at Kumo Restaurant, the KAAGNY (Korean American Association of Greater New York) Gala, the Scarsdale Chinese Association, and WACA (Westchester Association of Chinese Americans).
Lunar New Year marks the start of a new year - a new beginning. It is January 1st for the lunar calendar (also known as 正月), celebrated across the world. Year by year, new rats, oxen, tigers, rabbits, dragons, snakes, horses, goats, monkeys, roosters, dogs, and pigs are born. A wealth of history is celebrated every 正月, and history will continue to be made, both on 正月 and January 1st. Happy Lunar New Year, and may there be an abundance of joy and good health for everyone!