People who follow the Gregorian calendar only get New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day to ring in a new year. But those who celebrate the Lunar New Year have more time for festivities. Often referred to as the Chinese New Year, the first day of the Lunar New Year falls between January and February, and means 15 days of rejoicing. While you may have heard of dragon dances or red envelopes, you may not know what makes the Chinese New Year different from the New Year we celebrate on January 1st. Here’s a quick primer:
This year’s Chinese New Year lands on February 16th. This new year will be the Year of the Dog, which is already giving us good vibes. In China, Lunar New Year is called Nónglì Xīnnián (农历新年). Along with China, countries including Vietnam and Tibet also celebrate the holiday.
Most of the world, including the U.S., uses the Gregorian calendar, which is based on the solar cycle. It’s your basic January-December calendar year that results in a New Year’s celebration from December 31st to January 1st. But the Lunar New Year is based on (you guessed it) the lunar cycle — or cycle of the moon.
That’s why the Chinese New Year can start anywhere between January 21st and February 20th, and varies from year to year.
The Encyclopædia Britannica writes that the Lunar New Year starts with the first new moon of the lunar calendar. The celebrations end 15 days later when the first full moon of the lunar calendar occurs. As for those celebrations, some Lunar New Year traditions are thousands of years old.
The first couple of days are reserved for family, and according to CNN Travel, you spend the first day of Lunar New Year doing no chores. That includes not showering and not taking out the trash. Let’s be real — that’s how many of us spend New Year’s Day anyway.
On the seventh day, everyone celebrates their birthday. And that means everyone — not just the people who were born in a Year of the Dog, which includes the years 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, and 2018.
Beyond that, people receive red envelopes with small sums of money. There are dances, lanterns, and the color red throughout the 15-day celebration.
As for fireworks, there’s the superstition that they scare away the mythological beast Nian, who comes out to attack people during the Lunar New Year. (Nian’s also scared of red.) So that’s one reason for the fabulous firework displays.
The event wraps up with the lantern festival on the last day of the New Year.
So when the partying begins on February 16th, you’ll now have a better idea of what it’s all about. Considering how much fun and love is experienced during the 15 days of the Lunar New Year, you might just want to trade in the lackluster New Year’s Eve for it.