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What to know about the Lunar New Year and Year of the Dragon

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Lunar New Year, or Chinese New Year, will be celebrated on Feb. 10 this year, bringing in the Year of the Dragon. This holiday is significant across Asia, including in China, Korea and Vietnam.

The Year of the Dragon

A different animal represents each year in the Chinese zodiac’s 12-year cycle. This coming year is expected to be magical because the dragon is a mystical creature that represents power, nobility, and success.

Those born in 2024, 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964, 1952, 1940 or 1928 are dragons on the Chinese zodiac calendar.

Throughout Asia, New Year traditions include spending time with family, honoring ancestors and elders, lucky red envelopes filled with money and special traditional foods.

Why a different calendar?

Most of the world uses the Gregorian calendar, where the new year begins on Jan. 1. Lunar New Year is based on a lunisolar calendar, which is about 354 days long and includes a “leap month” every two or three years. As a result, the date of Lunar New Year differs slightly each year.

Traditionally, Asian countries were agricultural societies. The lunisolar calendar corresponded to the seasonal activities on the farms. The year began with planting and ended after harvest.

Chinese Spring Festival

Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, is a 15-day celebration that marks the beginning of Spring. In Chinese communities around the world, many people return to their hometowns to mark new beginnings with their families. During the holiday period, there will be traditional lion and dragon dances, firework displays and traditional Chinese folk performances.

People will decorate their homes, buy new clothes and have special meals with foods signifying luck and prosperity, like a whole fish. Younger family members might receive hong bao, or red envelopes filled with money.

Korean Seollal

Many Koreans also travel home to celebrate New Year’s Day, known as Seollal, with their families. Many participate in a memorial service called charae to honor their ancestors. Children who perform a deep ceremonial bow to older family members may be rewarded with money!

Traditional Korean New Year foods include tteoguk (rice cake soup) and mandu (Korean dumplings). People will also wear traditional Korean clothing, fly kites and play traditional Korean games.

Vietnamese Tết

Tết, or Vietnamese New Year, is considered the country’s biggest holiday. Must have foods include Bánh chưng and Bánh tét, sticky rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves with a sweet or savory filling, to symbolize the importance of sticking together during the new year.

Families will honor their ancestors by offering food and drinks and burning ceremonial paper money. Older family members often spend New Year’s Eve at home and believe that the first visitor of the New Year, the "First Stepper," influences the household’s luck.

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