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6+ Lunar New Year Traditions Around The World | 2024 Reveal


Lynn 18 January, 2024 7 min read

As the winter chill fades and the spring flowers begin to bloom, people around the world are looking forward to embracing Lunar New Year traditions. It is a joyful occasion that marks the arrival of spring and the beginning of a new year following the cycles of the moon, or the lunisolar calendar. It is the biggest annual holiday in China, South Korea and Vietnam and is also celebrated in many other countries in East Asia and Southeast Asia such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Philippines. 

In China, the Lunar New Year is often called Chinese New Year or Spring Festival. Meanwhile, it was known as Tet Holiday in Vietnam and Seollal in South Korea. In other countries, it has been popularly referred to as Lunar New Year.

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When is the Lunar New Year?

Lunar New Year this year 2024 will fall on Saturday, February 10th. This is the first day of the new year according to the lunisolar calendar, not the Gregorian calendar. Many countries celebrate the holiday for as long as 15 days, until when the moon is full. During the official public holidays usually taking place during the first three days, schools and workplaces are often closed. 

As a matter of fact, the celebration starts the night before on Lunar New Year’s Eve when family members get together to share a so-called reunion dinner. Huge firework displays are often showcased during the countdown time from the old year to the new year. 

The Origins

There are many mythical stories about the Lunar new year in different regions of the world. 

One of the most popular legends is associated with one fiercely aggressive beast called Nian during ancient times in China.

Although it lived at the bottom of the sea, it would go ashore to feast on livestock, crops and harm people. Every year near New Year’s Eve, all villagers had to escape into bushes and hide themselves from the beast until one time when there was an elderly who declared that he had the magic power to defeat the beast. One night, when the beast appeared, the elderly wore red robes and set off firecrackers to scare the beast. From then on, every year the whole village would use fireworks and red decorations and gradually this has become a common tradition to celebrate the new year.

Common Lunar New Year Traditions

Around the world, over 1.5 billion people celebrate the Lunar New Year. Let’s delve into the tapestry of commonly shared Lunar New Year traditions, though it’s good to remember not everyone does these things everywhere in the world!

#1. Cleaning and Decorating Houses with Red

Weeks before the spring festival, families always engage in giving their house a thorough cleaning which symbolises sweeping away the bad luck of the preceding year and making way for a good new year.

Red is commonly considered as the colour of the new year, demonstrating luck, prosperity and energy. That is why homes are adorned with red lanterns, red couplets and artwork during the new year.

Lunar New Year traditions: house cleaning
Source: House Digest

#2. Honouring the Ancestors

Many people often visit their ancestors’ graves before Lunar new year. Most families have a small altar to honour ancestors and they often burn incense and worship at their ancestor’s altar before Lunar new year’s eve and on the new year day. They also make offerings of food, sweet treats and tea to ancestors before the reunion dinner. 

#3. Enjoying a Family Reunion Dinner

Lunar New Year’s Eve is often when family members gather together to have dinner, talk about what has happened during the preceding year. Wherever they are, they are expected to be home during Lunar New Year’s Eve to celebrate the festival with their families.

Food plays an essential role in Lunar New Year traditions. Families often prepare sumptuous feasts with traditional dishes according to their own cultures. Chinese people would have symbolic dishes such as dumplings and longevity noodles while the Vietnamese often have Vietnamese square sticky rice cake or spring rolls. 

For people who live far away from their families, cooking traditional meals with loved ones can help them feel connected to their family’s customs and traditions.

#4. Visiting Family and Friends

Family reunions are a major part of Lunar New Year traditions. You might spend the first day with the nuclear family, then visit the closest paternal relatives and maternal relatives on the second day, and then visit your friends on the third day onwards. Lunar new year is considered the perfect time for catching up, sharing stories and showing gratitude for other’s presence.

#5. Exchanging Red Envelopes and Gifts

It’s one of another common Lunar New Year traditions to give out red envelopes with money inside to children and (retired) or old seniors in the family as a wish for their health and happiness and a peaceful year. It is the red envelope itself that is considered lucky, not necessarily the money inside.

When giving and receiving red envelopes, there are few customs you should follow. As an envelope giver, you should use new crisp bills and avoid coins. And when receiving a red envelope, first you should offer a new year greeting to the giver and then politely take the envelope with both hands and do not open it in front of the giver.

Lunar New year traditions: red hongbao

#6. Lion and Dragon Dances

Traditionally there are four fictional animals that are considered very lucky including Dragon, Phoenix, Unicorn and Dragon Turtle. If anyone sees them on New Year’s day, they will be blessed for the whole year. This explains why people often perform vibrant, lively parades of lion and Dragon dances on the street during the first one or two days of the new year. These dances often involve firecrackers, gongs, drums and bells, which are known for their ability to ward off evil spirits. 

Closing Thoughts on Lunar New Year Traditions

Lunar New Year is not just a festival: it’s a tapestry of cultural richness, family ties and the hope for a peaceful, brighter year. All the Lunar New Year traditions serve as a reminder for people to stay connected with their roots, share love and wishes for their loved ones and spread hope and prosperity across the world. We hope you now have a deeper understanding about Lunar new year traditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do people celebrate and embrace Lunar New Year traditions?

Lunar New Year celebrations vary across different countries and cultures, but common practices often include:
Cleaning and Red Decorations:
Honouring the Ancestors
Family reunion dinner
Exchanging lucky money or gifts
Lion and dragon dances
Visiting families and friends

What are the traditions of the Vietnamese new year?

The Vietnamese New Year, known as Tet holiday, is celebrated with customs and traditions such as cleaning and decorating, having reunion dinner on Lunar New Year’s Eve, honouring the ancestors, giving out lucky money and gifts, performing dragon and lion dances. 

What should I be doing for the Lunar New Year?

If you’re looking to celebrate Lunar New Year, there are few of these common practices to consider, but remember that cultural practices may vary, so it’s important to approach the celebration with appreciation and respect and an open, learning mindset:
Visiting your family or friends
Cleaning the house and putting on red decorations
Enjoy traditional foods
Give and receive good wishes