Celebrated predominately in East Asia, Lunar New Year represents a treasured and important holiday in many cultures.
While the holiday is centered on China’s traditional lunisolar calendar, which is tied to the autumn harvest and end of the agricultural growing season, Lunar New Year celebrations are highly country- and culture-specific. Chinese Lunar New Year is celebrated on mainland China as well as countries with significant Chinese populations including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, and the United States. Unique Lunar New Year celebrations also occur in Vietnam (Tết Nguyên Đán), Seollal (South Korea), and diasporas from these countries around the world. In 2022, Chinese Lunar New Year, Tết, Seollal, and Chinese Lunar New Year all begin on February 1st.
This year we’re delving into the unique Lunar New Year celebrations that occur in China, Vietnam, and South Korea. Read on to learn more!
Chinese Lunar New Year:
Lunar New Year presents a time for reflection and celebration for Chinese people in mainland China and around the world. One of the most important holidays of the year, Lunar New Year is celebrated over 15 days, with each day possessing its own theme and set of customs. Throughout the holiday, people visit friends and families, exchange gifts, and feasting on traditional foods. On the night of the 15th day, lantern festivals are held, filling the sky with colorful, glowing lanterns.
In her book “Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge,” author Grace Young writes: “The feast is designed around meaning-laden foods to ensure auspicious blessings for the coming year based on the Chinese belief that ‘you are what you eat.’ Some foods are symbolic of good fortune while others are homonyms in Chinese for words that mean ‘good luck’ or ‘prosperity.’”
Traditional dishes include:
- nian gao (glutinous rice cake) that can be made either sweet or savory.
- jiaozi (dumplings) known as pot-stickers to Americans, jiaozi are served with a dipping sauce that is often a combination of vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and other condiments.
- mian tiao (noodles) a symbol of longevity in Chinese culture, these wheat noodles are commonly served during Lunar New Year.
Tết Nguyên Đán
Tết Nguyên Đán (literally the Festival of the First Morning on the First day) is Vietnam’s most important holiday of the year. Celebrated over three days, the first day entails celebrating with family, with young people typically receiving money from elders. On the second and third days, people typically gather with friends and their teachers, respectively. Parades occur to celebrate the occasion, and people light firecrackers, bang drums, and ring bells to ward away evil spirits.
Traditional Tết dishes often include:
- bánh tét(a sweet cake made with glutinous rice and mung beans wrapped in banana leaves)
- bánh chưng(a mixture of glutinous rice, mung bean purée, and pork) that is wrapped in banana leaves and is an important offering on family altars during Tết
- canh măng (dried young bamboo soup)
Seollal, or Korean New Year, is a national holiday that recognizes the first day of the Korean calendar. Seollal is a time for Koreans to get together with family and friends, with tens of millions returning home to their home towns to pay respect to their ancestors. Traditional food is a key part of Seollal celebrations, and a feast is typically held on the first day of the new year.
Traditional dishes include:
- teokguk (soup with sliced rice cakes) these rice cakes are often shaped to look like a coin, signaling auspices for wealth in the new year
- jeon, sometimes called buchimgae, is a savory pancake often made with vegetables and fish
- mandu-guk (dumpling soup) is often served with beef or fish broth and egg
We wish all those who celebrate a wonderful Lunar New Year!