Lunar New Year festival starts this weekend for Chinese communities around the world

Many will celebrate by wearing red, hanging lanterns and spending time with their family

There’s a legend that explains why people celebrate Lunar New Year, said Jing Wang, a Dalhousie professor of Chinese studies.

“It actually stemmed from an ancient battle against a monster and its name is Nian,” she said. “In Chinese it means year.”

Nian would come out on New Year’s Eve to eat. Wang said the monster was afraid of the colour red, bright lights and loud noises, so people would wear red clothes and set off fireworks to scare it away.

The Lunar New Year festival starts this Sunday.

The festival is based on the traditional Chinese lunar calendar and happens in either January or February each year. It originated in China, but is celebrated in other East and Southeast Asian countries as well, said Wang.

In China, Lunar New Year is also called the Spring Festival because it marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring.

Every year is represented by one of the 12 animals from the Chinese zodiac. The year 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit.

Wang said a reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve is one of the most important parts of the celebration.

“It’s kind of like Christmas Eve dinner with your family, so no matter where you are, you are kind of expected to be home with your family, so families of multiple generations will sit around tables and share food and will stay up late on New Year’s Eve.”

Red display boards in front of a pink flower arch show animals as a person in a red jacket with a person in a gray shirt standing behind.
People gather around a Lunar New Year Exhibit showing the animals of the Chinese zodiac at Halifax Shopping Centre on Wednesday.   Shazara Khan

She said her family also had some superstitions for Lunar New Year.

“We wouldn’t clean the house as that will be considered as cleaning out the good luck,” she said. “And we would not wash our hair on New Year’s Day because it will be considered that you wash away the good luck.”

Different regions of China have their own customs and traditions for the Lunar New Year.

Ding Fan is the president of the Chinese Society of Nova Scotia. She is from the Eastern part of China.

“In my culture, family gets together for the last dinner of the year and we eat a lot,” she said. “And when we turn into the first day of the year, we normally eat dumplings.”

But overall, Fan said Lunar New Year is about spending time with family and loved ones.

“For a lot of people, that is the longest holiday time in the whole year and a lot of people really cherish this time as a family gathering time.”

Some events happening this weekend in Halifax include:

The Chinese New Year Dinner at the St. Margaret Sailing Club on Saturday

Super Saturday: Chinese New Year at Alderney Gate Public Library

Chinese New Year Crafts at Alderney Landing on Sunday

Community Arts Sunday Lunar New Year Celebration

Shazara Khan

Shazara Khan

Shazara Khan is a journalism student at the University of King's College. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science. She loves classic films and her favourite actor is Audrey Hepburn.

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