Families are making travel plans, dumplings are steaming, and our stores are adorned with products in vivid reds and glistening shades of gold. It can only mean one thing; the biggest event on the East Asian calendar is just around the corner. Lunar New Year 2024 is almost here, and we’ve got everything you’ll need to rejoice in the festivities!
Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year, is a 15-day festival that celebrates the new year based on the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar. Each Chinese year is also associated with an animal sign, with this Lunar New Year commemorating the Year of the Dragon. From Friday 9 February to Saturday 24 February, China’s most important festival will commence with the first seven days being a public holiday in China. On the final and 15th day of the Lunar New Year (Saturday 24 February 2024), celebrations will conclude with the Lantern Festival—a lively celebration of family reunions and society, symbolising letting go of the past year and welcoming the new year with good fortune.
Origins of Lunar New Year
With a history spanning approximately 3,500 years, Lunar New Year was traditionally a time to honour gods and ancestors. According to a popular legend, there was a monster named ‘Nian’, which sounds the same as ‘year’ in Chinese—who would come around on the eve of every Lunar New Year to eat people and livestock. The monster feared loud noises, bright lights, and the colour red. Therefore, to deter this monster, people would light candles and firecrackers, display red paper and wear red clothes, as red is believed to ward off evil spirits and negativity. These traditions continue in Lunar New Year celebrations to this day.
Although customs and traditions of this celebration may vary, the seeing out the bad luck of the old year and of welcoming the luck and prosperity of the new year remain. Key Lunar New Year activities include decorating with red items, eating reunion dinner with family on Lunar New Year’s Eve, giving red envelopes and other gifts, lighting an abundance of firecrackers and fireworks, and watching lion and dragon dances.
Lunar New Year Food
Food is also an important element of Lunar New Year with ‘lucky’ dishes served throughout the 15-day festival, especially on the New Year’s Eve family reunion dinner. Lucky dishes include:
Not only are these considered lucky, but they also symbolise an increase in prosperity, wealth, family togetherness, happiness, and longevity.
Things You May Not Know About Lunar New Year
The Chinese community traditionally believe that the start of your year will affect your whole year, which is why this season is full of superstitions.
How People Celebrate Today
Today, people celebrate Lunar New Year by coming together to feast, visit family members and give gifts. Traditional Lunar New Year gifts often come in the form of food and money or items that symbolise prosperity and luck.
As 2024 is the Year of the Dragon, dragon-themed gifts are extremely popular, and in the Chinese zodiac, the dragon symbolises strength and health.