5 Things You May Not Know About The Lunar New Year

With the Lunar New Year fast approaching, everyone looks forward to an abundance of delicious food, money in red envelopes, and especially the camaraderie of friends and family. Many look forward to the festive season but often don’t know much about the how and why surrounding it, or the dos and don’ts. Here are some quick facts and quirks you should know about the Lunar New Year.

It’s not just Chinese people that celebrate it

Hence the name Lunar New Year. This is because it’s also celebrated by Vietnam as well as North and South Korea. It’s also known as the Spring Festival, meaning it follows the lunar calendar which results in the date changing every single year!

Koreans also celebrate the Lunar New Year, known as Seollal. Image from monipag.com

Koreans also celebrate the Lunar New Year, known as Seollal. Image from monipag.com

For the Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean diaspora around the world, it’s the biggest festival of the year. As a result, countries such as the United States, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United Kingdom also acknowledge this celebration, although not all nations enjoy a public holiday.

Don’t sweep or clean up on that day!

Before the Lunar New Year, there are one or two days of spring cleaning in the households that celebrate. This signifies the sweeping away of bad luck for the year, and some people even extend that to not taking out the trash, or showering on that day!

Don't sweep away the good luck! Image from hgtvhome.com

Don’t sweep away the good luck! Image from hgtvhome.com

In a similar vein, the spectacular lion or dragon dances that you see aren’t just for show; it’s a traditional practice to chase off evil spirits and bad luck. Perhaps it might be a good idea to hold one of your own before sitting down at the card table!

The world’s largest migration happens in China

During this festival, hundreds of millions of people in countries around the world travel back to enjoy reunion dinner with their families. However, nothing comes close to the sheer numbers of people going home in China. It’s estimated that close to 400 million in China travel to their hometowns for Lunar New Year, and that’s just the folks taking the train!

Hundreds of millions of people in China travel home for the Lunar New Year. Image from ibtimes.co.uk

Despite its importance, some are starting to avoid the arduous journey home, choosing to take the opportunity to pocket extra wages. And it’s not just about the money. Tickets for buses, trains, and planes are often tricky to get hold of, and even if they are lucky enough to book a seat, traffic and transport systems are often congested. It just makes more sense to travel home during non-peak days.

Flowers are encouraged, but not tofu and knives

Fresh flowers are often found in households during this festival as they are symbols of rebirth and growth. However, people tend not to eat tofu at this time to its white color, which symbolizes misfortune and death.

Flowers are welcome symbols of growth. Image from immigrantmommy.wordpress.com

Flowers are welcome symbols of growth. Image from immigrantmommy.wordpress.com

Another taboo during the Lunar New Year is the usage knives, scissors, and other sharp objects. It’s thought that this cuts off the steady stream of success and wealth flowing through the house or businesses. Although such taboos have often been forgotten over the generations, some still stick to it steadfastly. Don’t be surprised if your Chinese friends share some of these.

Fake boyfriends/girlfriends are a thing!

For single, working adults, family reunion dinners are often nothing more than nightmarish hours of constantly being questioned about their marital status and future. In recent years, many folks have turned to paying people to play the role of boyfriend or girlfriend in a bid to stem the tide of questions which can range from concerned queries to incorrigible invasions. Hence, you might have heard of “rent a boyfriend this Chinese New Year” advertisements seen across social media platforms.

Singles often rent fake boyfriends/girlfriends to appease their parents. Image from qz.com

Singles often rent fake boyfriends/girlfriends to appease their parents. Image from qz.com

If you’re lucky, some significant fake others may not even charge for their services as they are simply happy to have someone to spend the holiday with. Perhaps every cloud does have a silver lining…

Cover image from nbcnews.com

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