How Lunar New Year Is Being Celebrated By Asian Communities Around the World

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Billions of people have begun their 15-day celebration of the Lunar New Year, marked by the many red paper cuttings, Chinese lanterns, and banners adorning homes and businesses.

The Lunar New Year is one of the most popular holidays in China. However, it is celebrated across the Asian continent and in pockets of ethnic communities around the globe. The holiday marks the arrival of spring and the start of a new year under the lunisolar calendar in a celebration that dates back to the Chinese agricultural tradition.

Every year, the holiday, also known as the Spring Festival, begins on the second new moon after the winter solstice. In 2024, the celebration falls on Saturday, Feb. 10. and marks the year of the dragon. (There are 12 different animals in the Chinese zodiac—rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, dragon, and pig—each of which will mark the personality and fortune of those born during that year).

Dragons have a special significance in China. They are the only mythical animals of the zodiac, and the creature largely symbolizes luck, strength, ambition, and charm.

Here’s how communities across the world are celebrating.

How China is celebrating Lunar New Year

In the second most populous country in the world, Chinese locals and tourists gathered to observe the holiday by setting off firecrackers and fireworks.

Ancient legend dictates that the tradition wards off evil spirits, specifically scaring the mythical monster of Nian, who would allegedly leave its home at the bottom of the sea to feast on people and livestock in villages at the start of the new year. That is until an older man realized that he could scare Nian away by burning bamboo (which is similar to a firecracker), lighting candles or having any bright lights, and pasting red decorations on doors.

The tradition has since stuck, prompting people to light red candles across temples and host colorful fireworks shows on the eve of the Chinese New Year. Some celebrations have been stifled by firework bans across hundreds of urban communities in China, with legislators citing pollution and safety hazards as the reason for the ban.

How the U.S. is marking Lunar New Year

A continent away, Asian communities in the U.S. are also commemorating the joyous occasion.

Celebrations are especially prominent in California, with the largest Chinese immigrants. However, New York also has a large population.

The Golden State marks its holiday with festivals featuring lion dances and floral art displays in San Marino and the highly-anticipated Golden Dragon Lunar New Year Parade in Los Angeles. More than 100,000 spectators are expected to attend the parade, which has been happening for 124 years.

Other communities, like that of Monterey Park, are healing from the heartache of tragedy as they commemorate the first anniversary of the shooting that left 11 dead and injured another nine at a local ballroom dance studio during Lunar New Year celebrations.

How South Korea welcomes Lunar New Year

In South Korea, where the Lunar New Year is called “Seollal,” people often travel to their hometowns to honor their ancestors’ spirits. Families traditionally prepare an offering of a table filled with food and perform a deep bow known as “sebae” to acknowledge their older relatives. Some Koreans also wear traditional Korean clothes, or “hanbok”—typically, a colorful, high-waisted long skirt or loose-fitting trousers with a jacket.

People typically prepare traditional food such as mandu dumplings filled with meat, vegetables, kimchi, and tteokguk to celebrate. This rice cake soup, some say, causes you to grow another year older or will provide luck. They may also play folk games, including the board game “Yut Nori,” or fly a kite.

The way the Lunar New Year is observed in South Africa.

In South Africa, people gathered to mark the new year at the Buddhist Fo Guang Shan Nan Hua Temple in Bronkhorstspruit.

Celebrants wore traditional outfits, offered prayers, and enjoyed a traditional dance in which people performed with a large dragon puppet.

Indonesia’s Lunar New Year festivities

In Indonesia, families traditionally visit their local temple to mark the beginning of the Lunar New Year. Some temples have been in place for centuries, like the Yin De Yuan Temple in the capital of Jakarta, which was built in 1650. Religious centers are usually decorated with red lanterns and large red candles.

Other fun cultural events include lion dances, music, and creative performances in the city of Semarang. Other festivals blend Chinese and Javanese culture, such as the Grebeg Sudiro festival in Solo, located in the Central Java Province. According to Indonesia’s tourist site, Greek celebrations have large cone-shaped displays of fruits, vegetables, or cakes that are “fought over” by the spectators. The custom stems from a Javanese teaching emphasizing that people must earn what they eat.

How the U.K. is celebrating the Lunar New Year

The London Chinatown Chinese Association is hosting a parade in honor of the holiday on Sunday, Feb. 11. The festivities will move through Chinatown, bringing traditional dragon dancers to Trafalgar Square to start things off. Onlookers can also enjoy delicious food, opera, and martial arts performances.

“As the Year of the Dragon begins, I want to thank London’s East and South East Asian communities for everything they contribute to our city,” wrote London Mayor Sadiq Khan in a post on X (formerly Twitter). “Wishing you all—and everyone celebrating across our capital and around the world—a very Happy Lunar New Year.”

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