Lunar New Year 2021

It’s the time of year where grocery stores start putting out their Asian cuisine, where fireworks often burst in the sky, and lanterns light a glowing path into the night. What is the cause for the celebration? Lunar New Year, the beginning of the year for the lunar calendar.

Typically an annual festival in Chinatown in Atlanta is held to celebrate the start of the new year, complete with dancers, food, and decorations. Unfortunately, because of COVID-19 restrictions, the festival will not be held in-person.

However, this does not limit the opportunity to celebrate. There are many facets to the Lunar New Year celebration outside of the Chinatown festival. But first, what is Lunar New Year?

What is Lunar New Year?

Lunar New Year is often called Chinese New Year, but celebrated in many Asian countries besides China. It’s the first day of the year according to the lunar calendar.

But unlike the start of the Gregorian calendar, there isn’t a set calendar date. Instead, the beginning of the new year rotates annually, ranging in late January to early February. This is because, hence the name, the lunar calendar is based off of the moon’s travels, instead of the sun.

The date isn’t the only thing that rotates, though. Each lunar year is represented by one of the twelve different zodiac animals: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig (annually rotating in that order). This year, 2021, is the Year of the Ox. Click on the link to to find the zodiac animal for your birth year.

Lunar New Year is actually a celebration that spans 16 consecutive days, broken up into two main parts: the Spring Festival (Feb. 12-22) and the Lantern Festival (Feb. 23-26).

The 16-day Lunar New Year celebration concludes with a Lantern Festival. This year, the Lantern Festival is celebrated on Feb. 26. [Photo credit: Wego Travel Blog]

Lunar New Year is also full of many traditions that have been around for centuries. Red pockets (small red envelopes containing money) are given out to friends and family for good luck. They are also taken up by the dragon dancers in the Chinatown festival as donations.

There’s also a few taboos to avoid, such as breaking ceramics or glass, arguing, and swearing. By doing these taboos you are risking a year of misfortune.

Lunar New Year is as important just as why New Year’s Day is important–it marks the beginning of the year, and brings wishes for upcoming luck and fortune. It is also a time for family to spend time together, to prepare for the new year, worship religiously, and celebrate.

Ways to celebrate

Even though the festival in Atlanta is closed, there are still many ways to celebrate from home. Lunar New Year is a time to meet with family, so connect with your relatives either in-person or virtually.

Buford Highway Market also sells international cuisine. Consider purchasing some traditional Lunar New Year foods, such as spring rolls or dumplings. Take the time to learn about these dishes and why they are eaten for the day.

If you want to go all out on the food, consider a tradition called hot pot (火锅 huǒ guō). A pot of boiling water sits in the middle of the table, surrounded by dishes containing raw dishes (chicken, baby bok choy, taro, tofu, etc.). The raw foods are then dumped in the pot to cook on the table, and to be eaten immediately after when finished.

chopsticks red pockets and chinese character for luck on red paper
The front and back of a red envelope, the Chinese character for happiness and good fortune (福 fú) and a pair of ornamented chopsticks. [Photo credit: Makenzie Bird]

There’s also the exchanging of red pockets. Distribute these (and more importantly, the money inside) to your close friends and family along with your wishes for luck in the new year.

Lunar New Year is a day where families get together in peace, where gifts are given out for fortune, and where celebrations take place to promote happiness. It is also an opportunity to celebrate with a different culture and learn even more about them.

The Warrior Word staff wishes you good luck and happiness as this new year rolls around.

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