Christmas might be the biggest annual celebration on the NZ family calendar, but in other parts of the world, the Lunar New Year – often referred to as Chinese New Year or Spring Festival – offers an eye-popping celebration full of food and festivities to herald in good fortune for the year ahead.
What is the Lunar New Year?
The Lunar New Year celebrates the start of a new lunar year, rather than a calendar year and is an important cultural celebration in many east Asian countries including China, Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, and Tibet. Festivities begin with the new moon on the first day of the new year – which is 22 January in 2023 and ends 15 days later on the next full moon.
The Lunar New Year is more than just firecrackers, ‘lucky money’ and dancing dragons – it honours heaven, earth and ancestors, and is a celebration of family and thanksgiving.
Each year is associated with one of twelve Chinese zodiac animal signs, along with one of five elements (gold, water, wood, fire or earth). 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit (water element).
What Year Were You Born?
Your Chinese zodiac animal sign is derived from the year you were born. Below is a guide, though if you were born in January or February it may be slightly different as the beginning of the new year moves between 21st January and 20th February.
- Rat: 2020, 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960
- Ox: 2021, 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961
- Tiger: 2022, 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962
- Rabbit: 2023, 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963
- Dragon: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964
- Snake: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965
- Horse: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966
- Sheep: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967
- Monkey: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968
- Rooster: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969
- Dog: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970
- Pig: 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971
Lunar New Year crafts for kids
In China, children spend months making crafts for the New Year celebrations. Dragons play a special role in Chinese mythology and tradition and during the New Year celebrations, lively dragon parades can be seen dancing down the streets to the beat of drums and music. Get your kids into the spirit of Lunar New Year by making their very own dancing dragon puppet and Chinese drum, then let them play outside with their creations.
Decorations and traditions to bring Lunar New Year to life
Decorations such as pretty coloured lanterns and paper garlands make Lunar New year come to life. One tradition is for families to clean their houses to sweep away any bad luck. Windows and doors are decorated with lucky red paper decorations said to bring “good fortune” or “happiness”, “wealth”, and “longevity”.
Try making these handmade Lunar New Year crafts to bring the festival to life in your house:
- Cute Chinese paper lantern
- Chinese New Year firecracker garland
- Chinese brush painting
- Printable colouring-in page for Chinese New Year
- Make a Chinese hat
Lunar New Year feasts
In China, on the Eve of Lunar New Year, supper is a massive feast with family. The festive table includes meats such as pig, duck, chicken as well as Chinese sweet delicacies. Why not throw a Lunar New Year feast for your family and include these recipes in your banquet?
- Prawn toasts
- Pork and prawn dumplings
- Pork and vegetable rice noodle rolls
- Honey ginger prawns
- Chinese chicken wings
- Prawn and ginger cakes
- Honey soy drumsticks
Lunar New Year firecrackers and traditions
Firecrackers play a big part in the Lunar New Year celebrations. On the eve of Lunar New Year, families will end the night with firecrackers to scare away the evil spirits.
Another fun Lunar New Year tradition that we know your kids will love to adopt is the ‘lucky money’ tradition. Early the next morning after New Year’s Eve, Chinese children greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year, and receive money in red paper envelopes! Simply buy some red envelopes and pop a coin or two in them to take part in this fun custom. You can even up the ante by having a treasure hunt game where your kids have to find the hidden red envelopes in your house or garden.
One more thing …
The Lunar New Year tradition is to reconcile, forget all grudges and sincerely wish peace and happiness for everyone. So if you have any unfinished business with friends or your mother-in-law, now is the time to clear the air before breaking in the new year.