Lunar New Year Around the World

Visitors at the 2011 Lunar New Year Festival

Visitors at the 2011 Lunar New Year Festival

The Year of the Dragon is almost here! You might think that we finished celebrating the new year a couple weeks ago, but there’s one more party to go to: Lunar New Year!

While January 1 celebrates the new year by the Gregorian calendar, many cultures traditionally celebrate by the lunar calendar, including those of China, Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia, and Tibet. In Japan, the new year has been celebrated on January 1 since the Meiji Restoration when the country officially adopted the Gregorian calendar, though the associated traditions have remained.

Lion Dance at 2011 Festival

Lion Dance at 2011 Festival

While each culture has their own unique ways of celebrating Lunar New Year, it’s often celebrated as a family event with specific dishes; visits to a temple, shrine or other religious place; and gifts of money to children. But every culture has their own traditions as well, some of which even vary within the culture itself. Chinese celebrations are often accompanied by loud firecrackers traditionally used to scare away evil spirits. In Korea, some travel to the east coast to catch the first sunrays of the new year. And in Vietnam, sweeping is taboo during the celebration, as it symbolizes sweeping the year’s luck away.

A Korean dragon, now on view in "Auspicious Beauty"

A Korean dragon, now on view in "Auspicious Beauty"

January 23, 2012 marks the beginning of the Year of the Dragon. The dragon is one of twelve cycling zodiac signs that are assigned to each lunar year and is an auspicious sign, one of strength and good luck. Certain personality traits are popularly associated with each of the zodiac animals, and the typical “dragon” personality is no doubt related to the traditionally imperial use of the symbol: people born in the year of the dragon are thought to be noble, strong, intelligent, and passionate. This makes the year a popular one for parents– in China, more babies are born in the year of the dragon than any other year!

Every year, Los Angeles is treated to a wide variety of Lunar New Year celebrations. Last year, Pacific Asia Museum contributed our own unique event, designed to celebrate the breadth of cultures that observe the holiday. This Saturday, January 14, we’re excited to hold our second annual Lunar New Year Festival with performances, crafts, games, food trucks and more. The event is free and open to the public, and a full schedule is available on our website. Come ring in the year of the dragon at Pacific Asia Museum! ~CM

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