Happy Year of the Tiger! As you may already know, today is the first day of Lunar New Year, and festivities kicked off last night with a New Year’s Eve feast. What exactly is Lunar New Year? As the name suggests, the holiday celebrates the beginning of a new year, marked by the first new moon of the lunar calendar, and it typically falls between mid-January and late-February on the Gregorian solar calendar each year. Lunar New Year is celebrated in many countries in Asia and around the world, and traditions vary across cultures. My family follows Chinese traditions, and our celebrations last for 15 days, each with a designated activity, tradition, or superstition—there’s a day dedicated to spring cleaning, another for setting off firecrackers, and a lantern festival culminating the whole event.
While Lunar New Year is celebrated by people all over the world, I’ll be sharing some fun finds that is helping my tiny New York City apartment feel a bit more like my home in Taiwan, a land so very far away. Due to the ongoing global pandemic, I’m unfortunately not able to spend the holiday with my family as they are on the other side of the world, but I am still cleaning and decorating my apartment so I don’t accidentally curse my entire family (according to grandma). And since today is only day one of 15, there is definitely time to order decorations and clothing to keep the good fortune rolling in until Lantern Festival comes around.
Growing up, red envelopes were my favorite part of the festival because I always got money from my relatives (that is, until my mom took it away for safekeeping so I didn’t spend it all in one go). The custom of giving red envelopes, known as hong bao in Chinese, to children comes from an old Chinese legend that the lucky money offers protection from evil spirits. Now they’re given as good wishes for the new year ahead. Typically, money is given in paper red envelopes, but you can also use fancy cloth or silk red envelopes for special occasions.
Fu banners are a staple in Chinese New Year decorations. In Chinese, “fu” means good fortune and blessing, and people often hang these up on their doors and windows. Many families also hang them upside down, as saying “fu is upside down” sounds very similar to “fu has arrived”, meaning that good luck and wealth is coming your way! This handy set also comes with red lanterns, Chinese knots and tassels, and other festive decorations.
Everything, and I mean everything, is about setting yourself up for success to have the best fortune and luck in the upcoming year, and the food that we eat (and decorate with) is no exception! All of the dishes for Lunar New Year carry special meanings. Oranges are golden in color, so people believe that they will bring happiness, prosperity, and wealth. Noodles symbolize longevity, and fish will bring a family abundance and prosperity, as the Chinese word for fish sounds similar to the word for “plenty”.
Red is the most important color in this holiday as it symbolizes good fortune and prosperity, so it’s essential to wear red as much as possible during Chinese New Year. I may opt for a more traditional qipao if I’m hosting a Lunar New Year party or dinner as it’s always fun to dress up and share this element of my culture with my friends. For dinner with family, I like this long sweater dress since it’s usually pretty cold when Lunar New Year comes around.
I feel like this picture of my puppy Sunny in her dog qipao from last year speaks volumes as to how good of an idea this is. We wanted to celebrate her first Lunar New Year home and for her to join in on the festivities as well. Needless to say, I think we had a better time with her outfit than she did, but she sure did look adorable.