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Ways for everyone to celebrate Lunar New Year

Ways for everyone to celebrate Lunar New Year

Ways for everyone to celebrate Lunar New Year
January 23
12:00 2020

My favorite childhood memories consist of loud drums, sweet red bean-filled pastry wheels, sizzling firecrackers and huge plates of dumplings being passed around the dinner table. The Lunar New Year is about more than great food and big celebrations, though. It symbolizes a time for people to gather with their families, give thanks for their past and make wishes for the future.  This Saturday marks the first day of another lunar year, and I think everyone, whether they typically celebrate the East Asian holiday or not, could benefit from celebrating the occasion.

As the daughter of Chinese immigrants, I have always looked forward to every Lunar New Year. For me, the celebration of the new year meant getting to pick out my favorite Chinese lantern at the market, watching lion dances, going to temple to pray, visiting family and, most importantly, receiving red envelopes and eating a lot of food.

While I always loved getting to celebrate the start of every lunar year, I don’t think I could truly appreciate everything the prospect of a new year represented until now. Growing up going to a Chinese Buddhist preschool and attending a Chinese after-school program every day through elementary school, I took part in many New Year’s performances and festivities. My family and teachers always taught me that the start of a new year represents welcoming in good energy for the new year and moving away from the bad energies of the previous year. However, as a kid between 4 and 12 years old, I did not have many earthly problems to worry about, other than wanting to know what we would be eating next and how much cash was in the red envelope my uncle just gave me. Now that I’m older, I can attribute more value to the symbolic importance of Lunar New Year.

Participating in Lunar New Year rituals can be a cathartic experience, and I think everyone should have a chance to experience the spiritual cleansing of welcoming in a new lunar year.

First, leave bad energies from the previous year behind. Pay off your credit card bills, finish the projects you have been putting off and clean your room. Make sure to finish all cleaning before Saturday, though, because if you sweep your home within the first three days of the new year, you will be sweeping away the metaphorical wealth and good wishes that have collected there after you called them to you.

Do some arts and crafts and decorate your home with DIY red Chinese knots, red Chinese paper cuttings and red paper lanterns to ward off bad spirits and the Nian monster. Welcome wealth into the new year by giving gifts of fruit, candy and red envelopes to friends. Sharing what you have and wishing well for others will ensure you are eventually rewarded as well.

The Lunar New Year is all about family, so visit yours and have dinner with them. If you live far from home or just cannot get all of your family together to celebrate, gather your friends for a New Year’s dinner instead. While my family practices eating only vegetables and no meat on the first day of the new year to give thanks to Buddha and show kindness toward all living things, lucky foods to eat include fish, dumplings and glutinous rice balls in sweet soup, all of which symbolize wealth and prosperity for the new year.

Even though we follow the western solar calendar, the appreciation for family, wealth and good health the Lunar New Year represents is universal and worth celebrating. This week, give thanks for everything you have received in the past and make room in your life for new blessings. Pay well wishes to everyone you see and make sure to wish them a happy new year. In Mandarin, we say, ‘新年快乐 (Xīn nián kuài lè!)’.

Featured Illustration: Olivia Varnell

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Briana Lao

Briana Lao

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