Your Ultimate Guide To The Lunar New Year in 2021Mona
With Lunar New Year celebrations starting on the 11th of February, preparations are in full swing. For this blog article, we have teamed up with Sofia, a 63-year-old mother of two whose roots are from Fujian, China. After living several years in Vietnam and Hong Kong, she has now settled down in San Francisco, USA, with her family. In this article, Sofia tells us about how her family celebrates this special time of the year, the customs, and most importantly, the traditional food that is prepared.
The Lunar New Year in 2021
This year the celebrations begin on the 11th of February and conclude 15 days later, on the 26th of February. 2021 is the year of the Ox. According to an ancient myth, the Jade Emperor decided the Zodiac animals’ order based on their arrival. The Rat tricked the Ox into giving him a ride. However, just before they reached the finish line, the Rat jumped off the Ox and crossed the line first. As a result, the Ox became the second zodiac animal. The year of the Ox symbolises hard work and honesty, meaning those who work hard this year will be rewarded for their efforts.
How to prepare for the Lunar New Year?
1. Sweep out the bad and bring in the good luck
Sofia spends days leading up to the Lunar New Year’s Day with a kind of ‘spring clean’.
“Deep cleaning is a quintessential part of our tradition in preparation for the New Year. This includes cleaning the windowsills, dusting off tabletops and portraits, washing all blankets, sweeping every corner of the house, mopping the floors, cleaning out the pantry and so on,” says Sofia. In her culture, it is believed that removing all the ‘dust and dirt’ before the New Year will eliminate all the bad luck and invites good luck in on New Year’s Day.
Something to remember: don’t clean, sweep or empty the trash on an actual day! This means you would remove all the good luck for the entire year. It also applies to morning showers.
2. Invite good luck with red decorations
Lunar New Year decorations are a crucial element during the preparation time, with red the primary colour as it signifies luck. Usually, many different red Lunar decor elements are placed on the walls and doors to create a warm and festive environment. These decorations typically contain the Fuk character (福) which represents happiness, good fortune and wishes. Also, images of Door Gods are pasted on the front door to drive away evil spirits.
3. Stock up baking goods and fruits
“I normally bake a traditional sticky glutinous rice New Year cake called Nian Gao. They were traditionally offered to ancestors and Gods, but now they become a staple during the Lunar New Year,” explains Sofia.
Another typical cake is Gao, which in Mandarin means tall. Thus, many parents make their children eat this cake to grow taller. “I usually back a large batch and bring it to my neighbours and siblings as a good fortune offering,” says Sofia.
She also stocks up on fruits because of their meaning. “Fruits that I purchase: grapefruit (symbolises family, hope, wealth and prosperity), mandarin/tangerines (good luck), apples (protection and peace). All these fruits share a common trait – they are all round. This symbolises cyclic nature of life, wholeness, completeness and unity,” elaborates Sofia.
How to celebrate New Year’s Eve
Family is vital in Lunar culture. Thus, on the day before the Lunar New Year, the whole family comes together for a reunion dinner called tuan nianfan. The reunion usually takes place at the parent’s house, also known as lao jia (hometown).
There is usually a variety of foods offered. As well as green vegetables with mushrooms and dumplings, a lot of families eat chang shou mian noodles for prosperity and long-life, some roasted pig for peace, roasted duck for loyalty, steamed fish for wealth, chicken in soy sauce for reunion and rebirth (head and claws are left on to preserve its meaning) and bamboo shoots for longevity and moving forwards.
After the delicious dinner, Sofia and her family would usually enjoy Lunar firecrackers, play board games and watch the CCTV New Year’s Gala, including the countdown. A few hours before midnight, her family visits the local Buddhist temple. There they light incense, make donations, say prayers, and thank Buddha for blessing, protection and good fortune.
Duration and New Year’s traditions
First thing in the morning, the greetings of the elders and parents happen. Those greetings are returned with lucky red envelopes called Hong Bao that have money in them. However, only children and unmarried adults receive them.
The New Year is also welcomed in new clothes, as they represent a fresh, clean start. You should avoid wearing dark colours as they bring bad luck.
On New Year’s Day, Sofia and her family typically revisit the local Buddhist temple, and they eat their first meal there, which is vegetarian. After the temple visit, they enjoy Lunar New Year parades with lots of food, lion dancing, music and activities for the whole family.
On the second and third day, it is time to visit friends and relatives before returning to work on the fifth day. The Lantern Festival, also called Yuan Xiao Festival, occurs on the 15th day to mark the end of the Lunar New Year celebrations. “Here, a variety of lanterns are lit throughout the streets to create an elm of the light guiding us through the entire year,” explains Sofia.