Lunar New Year: Cultivating an annual tradition

It’s a day full of family and togetherness–  air filled with noises from the firecrackers blasting people’s ears, laughter of children running around chasing each other, dragons and lions dancing down the street. Many Asian families living in America may be far from their ancestral home, but the tradition of celebrating Lunar New Year annually is a reminder of the culture that will keep on living.

“It’s a time for family to come together and give respect to our ancestors,” sophomore Christopher Le said. “And there’s also the tradition of giving money.”

Lunar New Year is the first day of the first month on the Chinese lunisolar calendar. As a result, it is often called Chinese New Year and is the most important holiday out of all Chinese holidays. Tradition follows that families get together for a reunion and celebrate over the course of 15 days, each day bringing in a new activity. The festivities would range from celebrating birthdays of historical figures such as the Jade Emperor of Heaven and the God of Wealth to abstaining from meat and burning incense at ancestors’ graves as part of the prayer ritual. Certain dishes are made for the occasion of the reunion dinner, usually containing fish and chicken as part of the tradition, and other delicacies such as taro cakes, melon seeds and a Chinese cake called niangao. Families would also then exchange red envelopes, known in Chinese as hungbao, containing money as a form of good luck for the start of the New Year.

“It means more than the money to me; it means good luck,” senior Helen Tang said. “It reminds me of family responsibility, family duties, and the importance of family in general.”

Although the holiday originated from Asia, people from all different ethnicities have gained an understanding as well as a deep respect for the ceremony.

“My family lived in Hawaii for four years, and the whole island celebrates it, so I came out with a great love for Polynesian and Asian cultures,” social studies teacher Karen Evans said. “I would attempt to get everything in the house organize, get it clean…It’s the time to reorganize, get rid of the old year and begin the new year with hopeful aspirations.”

Regardless of how or who, Lunar New Year welcomes everyone who is willing to join in on stepping into the new year, may it be for the merriment or a chance to reunite with relatives and loved ones.

“I look forward to the lion dancing, the noise, getting together with family,” Evans said. “It’s not about being born into it if it speaks to you.”