The Chinese New Year is a lunar holiday that begins with the arrival of
the second new moon following the winter solstice. It usually starts
between mid-January and mid-February, (date varies) and lasts for
fifteen days. As the New Year approaches, people clean their home to
escape bad luck in the upcoming year. Families gather for a feast on New
Year's Eve, and stay up late, believing that it will prolong the lives
of their elders. The Chinese people believe that evil spirits come
around at New Year, so they let off firecrackers to frighten them away.
People often seal their windows and doors with paper to keep the evil
spirits out, as well.
On New Year's Day,
people dress in their best clothes and present one another with small
gifts. Chinese people all over the world celebrate the first full moon
with a colorful street procession, called the Festival of Lanterns.
People fill the streets carrying lanterns and join a great parade led by
an enormous dragon. The Festival of Lanterns is believed to light the
way for the New Year.
In Korea the first day
of the lunar new year is called Sol-nal. This is for families to renew
ties and prepare for the new year. New Year's Eve: People place straw
scoopers, rakes or sieves on their doors and walls to protect their
families from evil spirit sin the new year. Everyone dresses in new
clothes, the following morning, symbolizing a fresh beginning, and
gathers at the home of the eldest male family member. Sncestral memorial
rites are held, then the younger generation bows to elders in the
family. They wish them good health and prosperity in the coming year.
The elders often then give newly minted money or gifts afterwards. New
Year's Day food includes: a bowl of rice cake soup ttokkuk.
Koreans believe eating this soup will add and extra year of age to your
life. Korean age is actually calculated at the New Year. Everyone
becomes a year older on New Year's Day! Favorite games: yut nori, a
stick game, and see-sawing on large see-saws setup in the courtyard or
Celebration of the
Japanese New Year ( Oshogatsu ) occurs on January 1, as
with Western nations. However, the Japanese people also observe some
beliefs from their religion, called Shinto. For happiness and good luck,
Japanese people hang a rope of straw across the front of their homes.
They believe it keeps the evil spirits away. Japanese people begin to
laugh the moment the New Year begins, so they will have good luck the
The Thai New Year
festival is called Songkran and lasts for three days from
13 to 15 April according the gregorian calendar. The customs are many
such as people throw water over one another, under the guise of that it
will bring good rains in the coming year and all the Buddha statues or
images are washed. They visit the monastery to pray and offer gifts of
rice, fruit, sweets and other foods for the monks. Another custom to
bring good luck, was to release birds from their cages or fish from
their bowls. They carry a fish bowl to the river to release their fish
all at the same time as one another. They might also play the game known
as Saba which is a game rather like skittles.
The Vietnamese New Year
is called Tet Nguyen Dan, or Tet for short. The exact date changes from
year to year, but it usually falls between January 21 and February 19. A
common Vietnamese belief is that the first person to enter a house at
New Year will bring either good or bad luck. The Vietnamese also believe
that there is a god in every home who travels to heaven at the New Year.
In heaven, this god will reveal how good or bad each member of the
family has been in the past year. Thus, the New Year is a time to
reflect on the past and improve in the future. A traditional Vietnamese
belief is that the god travels to heaven on the back of a fish, called a
carp. Even today some people will buy a live carp, and then free it in a
river or pond.
The people of Cambodia
use the Indian Calendar to calculate the start of the New Year festival.
The festival starts on the 12, 13 or 14 April according to the gregorian
calendar and lasts for three days. People clean and decorate their
houses, as well as set up an altar to welcome the New Year Spirit Tevada
Chhnam Thmey who is said to come down to earth at this time. A
statue of the Buudha is put on the altar, also flowers, candles,
incense, a bowl of scented water, food and drink, and banana leaves
shaped into different figures. Day one of the festival people visit
their local monastery and offer food to the monks. A special sand mound
is built in the grounds of the monasteries on this day. The mound is
decorated with five religious flags, one on top of the mound and four
around the sides. Special games such as the Tug-Of-War, Angkunh and Boh
Choong are played at the monasteries on each day of the festival. Day
two people gather with their families to wish each other a happy New
Year and exchange gifts. They might also visit the monastery again to
ask the monks to say a special prayer for their ancestors. Day three the
Buddha statues of their homes and the monasteries are washed. It is said
this ensures good rains during the coming year. Children wash the feet
of their parents as sign of respect on this day as well.