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Lunar New Year vs Chinese New Year | Key Differences in 2024


Astrid Tran 18 January, 2024 9 min read

Lunar new year 2024 season is coming up! Key difference between Lunar New Year Vs Chinese New Year is while the Lunar New Year is the broader term associated with the start of a new year on the lunar calendar, which is based on the cycles of the moon, the Chinese New Year refers to the cultural traditions associated with celebrations within mainland China and Taiwan.

So while the two terms are used interchangeably, Lunar New Year is not the same as Chinese New Year. Let’s explore each terminology’s distinctive trait in this article.

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Table of Contents

Misunderstanding of Lunar New Year vs Chinese New Year

So, what does Lunar New Year mean? It is a general name for the traditional New Year in oriental cultures for some East and Southeast countries using the lunar calendar since ancient times. It is a festival to celebrate the beginning of the year according to the lunar calendar and lasts for the following 15 days until the full moon.

Lunar New Year vs Chinese New Year: The latter can be an interchangeable term for Lunar New Year for Chinese people not only in China but also for all overseas Chinese communities from around the world. Similar Lunar New Year has a specific name for countries like Vietnamese New Year, Japanese New Year, Korean New Year, and more.

In particular, it can be a huge mistake if you call Vietnamese New Year Chinese New Year and vice versa, but you can call it Lunar New Year for both countries. The misunderstanding might originate from the fact that their cultures were historically influenced by Chinese culture, especially Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and Mongolian.

How does Lunar New Year differ from the Chinese New Year?

Lunar New Year vs Chinese New Year | Key differences in 2024 year of the dragon

Lunar New Year follows the Zodiac cycle repeated every 12 years; for example, 2024 is the year of the Dragon (Chinese culture), so the next Dragon year will be 2036. Each Zodiac sign shares some common traits and personalities inherited from the year they’re born. How about you? Do you know what your Zodiac is?

South Asian cultures like Vietnam (Tet), Korea (Seollal), Mongolia (Tsagaan Sar), Tibet (Losar) celebrate Lunar New Year, but adapt the festival with their own customs and traditions. So Lunar New Year is a broader term comprising various regional celebrations.

Then there’s Chinese New Year, which specifically honours traditions from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. You’ll find a major focus on family and remembering ancestors. Things like giving red envelopes “lai see” for good fortune, eating auspicious foods, and lighting firecrackers. It really embraces that Chinese heritage.

There are many more interesting facts about other countries celebrating New Year that you can explore by yourself. And if you want to learn more about the Chinese New Year, let’s start with the trivial quiz: 20 Chinese New Year Questions & Answers right away.

Difference between Lunar Year vs Solar Year

You have the universal New Year that follows the Gregorian calendar, celebrating the start of a year on January 1st each year. Lunar New Year follows the lunar calendar. How about Solar New Year?

In many South and Southeast areas, there exists a less popular festival that not many people notice called Solar New Year, which originated in the Indian cultural sphere and is rooted in Buddhism, dates back to 3,500 years ago as a celebration to wish the rich harvest.

The Solar New Year, or Mesha Sankranti follows the Hindu lunar calendar rather than the Solar calendar (or Gregorian calendar), which coincides with the rising of Aries, and usually takes place in mid-April. Countries that are inspired by this festival.India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Mauritius, Singapore, and more.

The Water Festival is the most famous Solar New Year ritual. For example, Thai people like to hold the event in urban streets with water fights, attracting tourists worldwide.

Songkran Festival – Solar New Year – Source:

Chinese New Year vs Vietnamese New Year

Chinese New Year and Vietnamese New Year, also known as Tet Nguyen Dan or Tet, are both important traditional holidays celebrated in their respective cultures. While they share some similarities, there are also significant differences between the two:

  1. Cultural Origins:
    • Chinese New Year: Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar and is celebrated by Chinese communities around the world. It is the most important traditional Chinese festival.
    • Vietnamese New Year (Tet): Tet is also based on the lunar calendar but is specific to Vietnamese culture. It is the most significant and widely celebrated festival in Vietnam.
  2. Names and Dates:
    • Chinese New Year: It is known as “Chun Jie” (春节) in Mandarin and typically falls between January 21 and February 20, depending on the lunar calendar.
    • Vietnamese New Year (Tet): Tet Nguyen Dan is the official name in Vietnamese, and it generally occurs around the same time as Chinese New Year.
  3. Zodiac Animals:
    • Chinese New Year: Each year in the Chinese zodiac is associated with a specific animal sign, with a 12-year cycle. These animals are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.
    • Vietnamese New Year (Tet): Tet also uses the Chinese zodiac animals but with some variations in pronunciation and symbolism.
  4. Customs and Traditions:
    • Chinese New Year: Traditions include the lion and dragon dances, red decorations, fireworks, the giving of red envelopes (hongbao), and family reunions. Each year is associated with specific customs and rituals.
    • Vietnamese New Year (Tet): Tet customs include cleaning and decorating homes, offering food to ancestors, visiting temples and pagodas, giving lucky money in red envelopes (li xi), and enjoying special Tet dishes.
  5. Food:
    • Chinese New Year: Traditional Chinese New Year foods include dumplings, fish, spring rolls, and glutinous rice cakes (nian gao).
    • Vietnamese New Year (Tet): Tet dishes often include banh chung (square glutinous rice cakes), banh tet (cylindrical glutinous rice cakes), pickled vegetables, and various meat dishes.
  6. Duration:
    • Chinese New Year: The celebration typically lasts for 15 days, with the climax on the 7th day (Renri) and ending with the Lantern Festival.
    • Vietnamese New Year (Tet): Tet celebrations generally last for about a week, with the first three days being the most important.
  7. Cultural Significance:
    • Chinese New Year: It marks the beginning of spring and is a time for family gatherings and honoring ancestors.
    • Vietnamese New Year (Tet): Tet symbolizes the arrival of spring, renewal, and the importance of family and community.

While there are distinctions between Chinese New Year and Vietnamese New Year, both festivals share the common themes of family, tradition, and the celebration of a new beginning. The specific customs and traditions may vary, but the spirit of joy and renewal is central to both holidays.

Celebrate New Year with a Quiz

New Year trivia is always a hit among families to bond over time, grab one for free here👇

Key Takeaways

New Year is always the best time to strengthen relationships with your family or friends, whether Lunar New Year, Chinese New year, or Solar New Year. Set aside traditions and rituals; there are many ways to ring the New Year in the most joyful and healthy activities, such as interactive games and quizzes, even if you currently stay far away from your loved ones.

Try AhaSlides right away to download a free Lunar New Year trivia quiz for your best New Year’s icebreakers and games.

Frequently Asked Questions

What country celebrate lunar new year?

Lunar New Year countries include: China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Philippines, Japan and Mongolia

Do the Japanese celebrate Chinese new year?

In Japan, the Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year or “Shogatsu” in Japanese, is not widely celebrated as a major holiday in the same way it is in countries with larger Chinese or Vietnamese communities. While some Japanese-Chinese communities may observe Lunar New Year with traditional customs and gatherings, it is not an official public holiday in Japan, and the celebrations are relatively limited compared to other Lunar New Year countries.