Saturday (Feb. 10) marks the onset of the Lunar New Year, a festivity steeped in rich traditions and cultural significance observed by people across the globe. Commencing with the second new moon following the Winter Solstice each year, the Lunar New Year typically falls between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20.
During this auspicious period, families and friends come together to partake in traditional cuisines and honor their ancestors. Festivities often include vibrant fireworks displays, mesmerizing parades featuring elaborate dragons or lions, and the exchange of gifts, notably the iconic red envelopes filled with money, known as hong bao. Celebrations span over 15 days, culminating on the night of the subsequent full moon, anticipated to occur on Feb. 24 this year. The origins of the Lunar New Year are believed to trace back to ancient times, with its timing intricately tied to the cycles of the moon and the sun, as per the lunisolar calendar.
While modern China adopts the Gregorian calendar for administrative purposes, traditional Chinese holidays and rituals remain rooted in the lunisolar calendar. While the Lunar New Year is commemorated worldwide, its fervor is most pronounced in China and other Asian nations such as Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia. The Lunar New Year period witnesses billions of individuals embarking on journeys, constituting the largest annual human migration, a phenomenon referred to as “Chunyun” or “spring transportation” in China, named after the Spring Festival, the Chinese term for the Lunar New Year celebration.
Even beyond the confines of Earth, the spirit of Lunar New Year resonates. The astronauts aboard the Tiangong space station, including those of the Shenzhou-17 mission, partook in a special feast to mark the occasion. Though separated from their families, they shared in the festivities with dishes like smoked fish, scallion pancakes, roast duck, dumplings, and other delicacies. Their mission, extending until April 2024, precludes them from returning home for the celebration.
The year 2024 heralds the commencement of the Year of the Dragon, a period often associated with exceptional fortune and considered propitious for births. This auspicious creature, embodying attributes of luck, strength, intelligence, and prosperity, holds profound cultural significance in Chinese lore. Revered throughout history, the Dragon symbolizes the might and majesty of China’s imperial legacy, encapsulating the essence of the nation’s rich heritage spanning millennia.