The deafening bang of thousands of exploding firecrackers. Magnificent flowing silk dragons dancing in the street. Opulent feasts of auspicious-sounding dishes and sweets. Red envelopes stuffed with cash doled out to bowing children.
China rings in the Lunar New Year in a big way. The festivities begin on the first full moon of the new year and last for 15 days. Chinese New Year, which falls on January 28 this year, is the single most important holiday in the country. It’s a time for renewal, family gatherings, eating rich foods and paying respect to your ancestors and elders. Also, what you do and how you act during the period is crucial in determining how the rest of your year will go. So, eating the right foods, such as black moss seaweed, which is a homonym for exceeding in wealth, and dried bean curd, which is another homonym for fulfillment of wealth and happiness, is a must.
These customs are widely known by most mainstream Westerners, but in many parts of Asia, New Year celebrations take on a different and richly diverse flavor.
In Korea, the Lunar New Year celebration is barely a blip on the party radar while New Year is a month-long vacation and matchmaking fest among the Hmong. And in Thailand, New Year festivities include a splashy good time with a water sprinkling ritual. Also, because many countries interpret the lunar calendar differently or use the solar system, the dates of celebrations vary as well. The Indian holiday of Diwali falls in late October or early November, the Cambodians enter their Chaul Chnam Thmey in mid-April and modern Japan celebrates New Year, oddly enough, on January 1st.
Despite a number of differences, there’s one common theme that takes center stage for all Asian New Year celebrations: family. No matter what the country, religion or race, New Year’s Day is a time for family reunions, gatherings and reflection and reaffirming bonds.