Lunar New Year is observed by many East Asian cultures and is often referred to as the Spring Festival. It marks the end of winter and beginning of spring according to the lunar calendar. The Spring Festival was originally a ceremonial day to pray to the gods for a good planting and harvest season. Lunar New Year is also the first day of the new full moon and marks the transition between zodiac signs. This year, 2023, is the year of the rabbit. Celebrations often begin the evening before the New Year and culminate with the Lantern Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the New Year.
The week leading up to Lunar New Year is filled with excitement and anticipation as Lunar New Year is one of, if not the biggest celebrations of the year. In order to prepare for the New Year, parents purchase new clothing and shoes for their children to represent a new start. Everyone is also expected to have their hair cut prior to the celebrations, as hair cutting during the celebrations is considered bad luck due to the homonymic nature of the word "hair" and the word for "prosperity." More importantly, families and households thoroughly clean their home, as it is believed to clean away the bad luck from the year before and makes the home ready for good luck. Sweeping and throwing out garbage is not allowed before the 5th, as this will ensure that good luck is not washed away. Decorations of red lanterns and New Year couplets are hung throughout the house.
On the eve of Lunar New Year, the entire extended family gathers at the grandparents’ house for a family banquet. The family reunion dinner often takes days to prepare, and every dish has a different meaning. Some popular dishes include dumplings, glutinous rice cake, good fortune fruits and longevity noodles. It is also customary for married adults or the elderly to give children red envelopes filled with money as a blessing and gift. Children wish their elders a happy new year and a year of happiness, health and good fortune before accepting the red envelope.
Lunar New Year is my favorite holiday to celebrate with family and friends. It is colorful, bright and filled with joy. The above description represents my personal experience in a Chinese-Vietnamese immigrant home and how we celebrate the Lunar New Year. Every family observes Lunar New Year a bit differently and it reflects their individual and unique family traditions.
About the Author
Dr. Sharon Trinh is a member of Valley Children's Pediatric Residency Program Class of 2025. She believes in caring for all her patients as if they are her own family. "I want them to feel empowered and cared for," says Dr. Trinh.