Along the Gulf Coast, many families of East Asian descent are preparing for the long-awaited day – Lunar New Year – the Year of the Ox!
Lunar New Year, also widely known as Chinese New Year, is a special celebration to welcome the arrival of spring.
It is widely known as Chinese New Year because of the size of the Chinese population. However, it is slowly becoming more of a norm to say Lunar New Year because other Asian nationalities, such as Vietnamese, Japanese, etc. also celebrate during the same time as the Chinese. Coming from Vietnamese descent, the new year for my family is based on the Vietnamese variation of the Chinese lunisolar calendar, which usually has the date falling in January or February.
It’s a wonderful time filled with 3 days of celebrating. And to prepare, it is customary to deep clean the house (especially sweep!), wash the laundries and dishes, and clear the house of all clutter, trash, and bad aura, so that the home is ready to welcome in the new year with good luck. (As I sit here typing this, a load of laundry is being washed!)
Sweeping during the 3 days of the Lunar New Year is taboo, as it represents sweeping away the good luck. (So note to self: No matter how dirty the kitchen floor is, refrain from grabbing that broom!)
We decorate our homes with fresh spring flowers, such as chrysanthemums, lucky bamboos, orchids, peach and cherry blossom trees, bonsai trees, and more!
The animal of the year is based on the Chinese zodiac. In Chinese culture, the Chinese zodiac calendar plays an important role in one’s life, from decisions on marriage to career. I urge you to find out more about the Year of the Ox.
We celebrate with delicious homemade food — you got it! — eggrolls, crabmeat soup, rice cakes, fried rice, sweet sticky rice, fresh fruit, Asian slaw, dried candied fruit, and so much more. And we can’t forget the seafood! Oysters, crawfish, crab — the whole smorgasbord.
We raise our cocktails and spirits with family and friends to a Happy New Year with music and karaoke in the background, while the kids play and run about.
But the most important customs of the Lunar New Year are to…
- Visit families’ and friends’ home to express new year greetings;
- Worship and pray for ancestors; and
- Gift presents, to include the famous red Li Xi (lucky money) to children and the elderly.
It is through these customs that we wish one another a year full of prosperity, luck, good health and longevity, and wealth.
To welcome the New Year, many Asian communities usually host a festival with live music, food, raffles, fashion shows, and even a dragon dance. However, due to the pandemic, as with Mardi Gras, these festivals are also cancelled.
But that still won’t stop the smiles, laughter, and excitement! Or the endless amounts of food being consumed! And it certainly will not stop the positive wishes of a prosperous and hopeful new year!