Popular Lunar New Year Traditions From Around the World

People around the world celebrate new beginnings every December 31st, waiting for the ball to drop and welcome the very first second of January 1st with a bang.

Asian communities also celebrate new beginnings during Lunar New Year, which begins on February 1 in 2022. Asian Americans in the U.S. celebrate Lunar New Year in their own ways, mixing traditions from the East and West to satisfy our unique cultural identities. 

Lunar New Year is about fresh beginnings, cleansing ourselves of the negativity welcoming positivity, and manifesting a prosperous, lucky, and fulfilling year.

Let’s look at the traditions of the Lunar New Year.

Cleaning the house

It is customary for people to completely clean their houses (which even includes a new traditional wardrobe to impress grandparents) to embody that fresh start and get rid of bad fortune from the old year. In China, after cleaning, people will decorate their houses with the color of festivity, symbolic of good health and fortune, wealth, prosperity and longevity red. 

Offering greetings

Various Asian countries have different sayings in their respective languages.

Koreans say “Saehae bok mani badeuseyo,” which means, “Please receive a lot of good fortune for the New Year.” In China, they have “Gōng xǐ fā cái” in Mandarin and “Gung hei faat coi” in Cantonese, which mean “Wishing you a happy and prosperous Chinese New Year.” 

Gathering with family

This is a chance for members of several generations of family to gather to eat the family reunion dinner, catch up, and reminisce during Lunar New Year. For the occasion, Dumplings and Rica Cake Soup are stapled foods because it is believed to bring prosperity.

Giving and Receiving Red Envelopes

Nothing signifies Lunar New Year more in pop culture than little red envelopes adorned in gold and stuffed with cash. Nothing signifies Lunar New Year more in pop culture than little red envelopes adorned in gold and stuffed with cash. This is known as Hónɡ bāo in China, “Ang Pao” in the Philippines, and “Li xi” in Vietnam. 

Koreans call it “sae bae don” but it is usually given in white or patterned envelopes.

Attending a Lantern Festival

Lunar New Year ends with the Lantern Festival which includes folk dancing, traditional games, lantern parades, and dragon and lion dances. People also eat glutinous rice balls, called Yuánxiāo or Tāngyuán, which are sweet treats with various fillings.  A Lantern Festival is sometimes known as the Chinese Valentine’s Day, where singles hope to meet their new flame.