新年快乐 (xīn nián kuài lè: This means ‘Happy New Year’ in Mandarin). Today marks the first day of Lunar New Year, where many celebrations will occur to welcome the beginning of the new year. Whether you celebrate Lunar New Year or not, here are some interesting tidbits that will give you a better idea of what the holiday is all about.
1. Lunar New Year is celebrated in several Asian countries, including China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan.
2. According to Chinese astrology, each year is associated with an animal sign. The Chinese zodiac is a calendar system in which each of the years in the 12-year cycle is named after an animal: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.
3. Lunar New Year lasts 15 days. Beginning on January 31, 2014 and ending on February 14, 2014, Lunar New Year lasts about two weeks.
4. Lunar New Year traditions are observed and celebrated. A few traditions include exchanging money or treats in red envelopes, attending or participating in a parade, setting off firecrackers (the loud noises ward off bad spirits and bad luck), wearing red clothing, cooking Chinese dumplings, and decorating your home.
5. The color red is meant to scare away evil spirits. Red is also the color and symbol of good luck in Chinese culture. Many people will wear red or hang red decorations and paintings.
6. The number “8” symbolizes good luck and wealth because the Chinese word for “8” rhymes with fortune or wealth.
7. Sweet treats are a must. Some favorites include traditional candies made from lotus seeds, longan, peanuts, red melon seed, coconut, and candied melon.
8. Lunar New Year is symbolic of releasing the past and welcoming change and new beginnings. Use this time to clean your home and make a fresh start. Set new goals for yourself and pay attention to what you want to focus on for the coming year.