By Ryan Amante
Lunar New Year, often confused with the more specific celebrations of Chinese New Year, is celebrated by millions of people across the globe annually. Despite its popularity, the origins and ideologies behind the celebrations are often overlooked.
The specific celebration regarding Lunar New Year is believed to have originated around 3,500 years ago during the Chinese Shang Dynasty. In this simplified version of modern festivities, the ancient Chinese hosted sacrificial ceremonies in honor of their gods and ancestors at the start of the new year, which fell on the second new moon subsequent to the winter solstice. The first instances of more traditional customs associated with that of Chinese New Year occurred during the following dynasty, the Zhou Dynasty. During this time, legends regarding the mythical beast known as Nian (Year) began to sweep through the agrarian villages of rural China. It is believed that Nian roamed the countryside uncontested as he devoured unattended livestock and lonesome villagers alike on the eve of the new year. In order to prevent the evil doings of Nian from casting misfortune upon the new year, villagers clad their homes in red lanterns, scrolls, and other such paraphernalia to play into Nian’s fear of the color red. Hence, the color red is heavily associated with Chinese New Year as it is said to represent good fortune for the upcoming year. In addition to red decorations, the early Chinese lit bamboo to scare the cowardly creature away through its loud noise. This tradition would later evolve into the lighting of fireworks with the advent of gunpowder and has become a prominent staple of new year celebrations across many cultures.
Artwork by Shadia Zayer
Colors such as red and many symbols play an immense role in the celebration of the Lunar New Year.
Due to the fact that Lunar New Year serves as a general term for all celebrations of the lunar-based new year, it has an abundance of variations across different countries and cultures.
“During my family’s Lunar New Year celebration, we try to have one big dinner or lunch as a family. The foods we eat are very specific to promote good fortune, such as long noodles for long life,” senior Jasmine Li said.
At New Hyde Park Memorial, Lunar New Year celebrations occurred during the month of February. Specifically, the International Culture Club hosted a celebration consisting of traditional foods and cultural entertainment. Members of the NHP Sunny Chinese Center came to showcase East Asian culture through activities such as dances and calligraphy.
“Having gone to this event, it was great to see the International Culture Club step up and celebrate the Lunar New Year by showcasing traditions and helping students learn more about other cultures,” senior Irene Paul said.
Ultimately, the Lunar New Year remains a time for coming together and celebrating the traditions that have connected civilizations and communities for generations.