Year of the Dragon Makes Its Entrance

Lunar New Year celebrations have begun
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 10, 2024 10:00 AM CST
Break Out the Red for Year of the Dragon
Members of the Los Angeles Lung Kong Lion Dance Club perform in Los Angeles on Feb. 18.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, file)

On Feb. 10, Asian American communities around the US will ring in the Year of the Dragon, per the Chinese zodiac, with community carnivals, family gatherings, parades, traditional food, fireworks, and other festivities. In many Asian countries, it's a festival that's celebrated for several days. Different countries across Asia celebrate the new year in many ways and may follow a different zodiac.

  • What's the Lunar New Year? Known as the Spring Festival in China, Tet in Vietnam, and Seollal in Korea, it's a major festival celebrated in several Asian countries. It's also widely celebrated by diaspora communities around the world. The holiday begins with the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ends 15 days later, on the first full moon. Because the lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon, the dates of the holiday vary slightly each year, falling between late January and mid-February.
  • Animals of the zodiac: Each year honors an animal based on the Chinese zodiac. The circle of 12 animals—the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig—measure the cycles of time. Legend has it that a god beckoned all animals to bid him farewell before his departure from Earth and only 12 of them showed up. The Vietnamese zodiac is slightly different, honoring the cat instead of the rabbit and the buffalo instead of the ox.
  • Beliefs and traditions: One well-known ancient legend speaks of Nian, a hideous monster that feasted on human flesh on New Year's Day. Because the beast feared the color red, loud noises, and fire, people put up red paper dragons on their doors, burned red lanterns all night, and set off firecrackers to frighten and chase away the monster. To this day, the Lunar New Year celebration is centered around removing bad luck and welcoming all that's good and prosperous. Red is considered an auspicious color to ring in the new year. Ancestor worship is also common during this time.
  • How do diaspora communities celebrate? Members of Asian American communities around the US also organize parades, carnivals, and festivities around the Lunar New Year, featuring lion and dragon dances, fireworks, traditional food, and cultural performances. In addition to cleaning their homes, many celebrants buy new things for their home and decorate using orchids and other brightly colored flowers.
More here. (More Lunar New Year stories.)

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