Are you ready for the Lunar New Year?
The Lunar New Year, which some may call the Chinese New Year, happens on Feb. 10, 2024. The holiday has deeply rooted traditions and beliefs, many of which are focused on attracting prosperity and good luck. Families often spend the holiday together, cleaning to make space for newfound wealth, eating special food and participating in celebrations.
This article will highlight the specifics of the holiday, including the countries that celebrate it and different Lunar New Year celebrations, in addition to the influences behind the holiday.
Is Lunar New Year the same as Chinese New Year?
When discussing the Lunar New Year, people usually refer to the Chinese New Year celebration, known in China as the Spring Festival. That said, Chinese New Year only partially encompasses Lunar New Year, although an estimated 2 billion people celebrate the holiday worldwide.
Spring Festival is the largest and most important festival in China. The 2024 version runs for eight days, from Feb. 10-17.
So, is the Lunar New Year the same as Chinese New Year?
Given that more cultures celebrate Lunar New Year than those inhabiting China, it is a potential misnomer to refer to the entire holiday as Chinese New Year. That is especially true here in the United States, where we have a melting pot of many cultures that observe the Lunar New Year.
Countries including Vietnam, Korea and Mongolia have lunar calendars based on the Chinese calendar. As a result, their Lunar New Year celebrations fall at the same time as China’s, creating some cohesion across various cultures.
However, countries including Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand follow a Buddhist lunar calendar. Their Lunar New Years occur in April, several months after the Chinese calendar.
Lunar New Year vs. New Year’s Eve
Yes, another new year. And so close to New Year’s Eve? What’s the difference between Lunar New Year and New Year’s Eve, after all?
Most of the world follows the Gregorian calendar, based on a 365-day (366 days in leap years) annual calendar corresponding with the Earth making one complete trip around the sun. It is a type of solar calendar where New Year’s Eve occurs on Dec. 31 and New Year’s Day follows on Jan. 1.
Meanwhile, others follow a lunar calendar. In a lunar calendar, the Moon’s phases determine the length of the year. Each new phase begins a new lunar month or lunation and 12 lunations make a lunar year.
Different cultures measure the start of a lunation at different phases. The Chinese calendar observes the beginning of a new month at every new moon, for example, while the Islamic lunar calendar measures its months by the lunar crescent.
Each lunation lasts 29 or 30 days and a lunar year usually lasts 354 or 355 days. Most Asian cultures follow a lunisolar calendar that inserts a leap month where necessary to maintain the lunar year’s place on the Gregorian or solar-based calendar.
In summation, Lunar New Year represents the start of a 12-lunation cycle on the lunar calendar. New Year’s on the Gregorian calendar signifies the beginning of another 12-month trip around the sun for planet Earth.
Years of the lunar calendar
Keeping the theme of 12, the lunar calendar has 12 zodiac animals that rotate in a fixed order with each passing year. Come Feb. 10, we will enter the Year of the Dragon, specifically the Wood Dragon.
The lunar rotation:
New Year’s resolutions
The new year – on the lunar and solar calendars – represents a time to start fresh. In the West, we often make resolutions for the year ahead to be intentional for the next trip around the sun.
New Year’s resolutions are a practice that originated with the Babylonians and has evolved ever since, leading to the present-day form we now know.
However, historically, that practice never made its way to China or other cultures celebrating Lunar New Year. While many Americans make resolutions centered around self-improvement, LNY rituals focus on bringing luck to the individual and the family.
All that said, humans are more globally connected than ever before. New Year’s resolutions are a common practice around the globe today, including many Asian countries that also celebrate the Lunar New Year.
Those who made and have already fallen off their resolutions can “start fresh” on them again for the Lunar New Year.
Luck and Lunar New Year
Luck is one of the most significant components of the Lunar New Year. In fact, Lunar New Year luck drives many of the traditions and superstitions related to the holiday.
For example, wearing red attracts luck in these traditions. The customs state that you should never wear black or white on the Lunar New Year, though, as these colors are for mourning. Additional colors to wear specifically for the Year of the Wood Dragon include shades such as lime green and bright yellow, which relate to wood and earth elements.
Different foods symbolize Lunar New Year luck. Fish is the main entree at the dinner table because its pronunciation in Mandarin Chinese sounds close to the word “surplus.”
Similarly, “tangerine” and “gold” have similar pronunciations. As a result, you’ll see oranges associated with Lunar New Year.
The round shape of oranges also plays a role in attracting luck. Round-shaped objects often decorate an offering table, including gold coins, fruits like apples and oranges, and other foods like fish balls for soup.
Other examples surrounding Lunar New Year luck include:
- The practice of elders giving red envelopes with money inside to children. Children usually wish their elders good luck for the new year before receiving their money.
- Only discussing light-hearted topics
- Paying back debts.
- Not doing laundry or washing your hair as it could wash away any good fortune you’ve attracted.
- Not cutting your noodles, symbolizing longevity.
Casinos Celebrating Lunar New Year
Have you ever walked into a casino around the time of LNY and found it fully transformed into an immersive celebration? The spectacle occurs especially in cities with prominent Chinese and Vietnamese populations, such as casinos and cardrooms in Las Vegas and California.
North Carolina Casinos will participate in celebrations for the holiday, too. Harrah’s Cherokee and Harrah’s Cherokee River Valley have promotions spanning multiple days at the start of LNY.
- Harrah’s Cherokee River Valley’s “Lunar New Year Swipe and Win” promotion runs from Feb. 9-11. Players can swipe their Caesars Rewards card at a promotional kiosk to earn up to $250 in free slot play each day.
- Harrah’s Cherokee is offering up to $100K cash and $10K in free play on Feb. 10. Players who swipe at a kiosk can also earn up to $250 in free play.
But why do casinos celebrate LNY so passionately? A multitude of contributing reasons paints the picture.
Many Asian, LNY-celebrating cultures have histories intertwined with gambling. Children grow up playing social games with family members that involve gambling, such as Mahjong.
This leads to a cultural acceptance of gambling, which results in significant overlap on the Venn diagram of casino-goers and those who celebrate LNY.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, LNY is a holiday centered around luck. If you believe you’re a lucky person, casinos become an attractive place to test that luck.
Lunar New Year celebrations
At its core, Lunar New Year focuses on bringing the family together, eating good food and attracting wealth in the upcoming year. Other Lunar New Year traditions involve lanterns, fireworks and parades like the lion dance, which ward off evil spirits.
The Lantern Festival signifies the end of the holiday and is the final Lunar New Year tradition. During the full moon, participants release lanterns into the sky as symbols of hope and love.
Like Chinese New Year, Vietnamese New Year, or Tết, is the most important holiday of the year. So is Korean New Year, or Seollal. These holidays run for three days at the start of the Chinese New Year and have more unique Lunar New Year traditions, including special foods in their respective cultures.
Other countries have official names for the holiday and practice many of the same rituals already discussed in this article.
Lunar New Year celebrations by country and name:
- Malaysia, Brunei: Tahun Baru Cina
- Philippines, Singapore: Chinese New Year
- Indonesia: Imlek
- Mongolia: Tsagaan Sar
- Thailand: Wan Trut Chin
- Macao: Novo Ano Lunar
- Hong Kong, Taiwan, US: Lunar New Year