Lunar New Year is just around the corner and you will start to see signs around the city wishing people a “Happy Chinese New Year”. What many people don’t realize, but what our Korean or Vietnamese language teachers could tell you: Lunar new year is not just celebrated in Chinese communities. In Vietnam the lunar new year, or Tết NguyênĐán (Feast of the First Morning of the First Day), is considered the most important cultural holiday. In Korea for the lunar new year, Seollal, it is traditional for people to go back to their home towns and visit family celebrating over the course of 3 days. In both cultures, just like China, there is a lot of food, centuries old traditions and family is central. Here is how one of our Korean teachers, Yinsook, describes it:
“In Korea, lunar new year is one of the biggest celebrated holiday. I have childhood memories of my mom always preparing the traditional food early in the morning and my extended family gathering together and eating traditional rice cake soup (떡국) for breakfast and having rice punch(식혜) for dessert. All of the children would be wearing the traditional clothing(한복) and then, out of respect towards the adults, do a traditional bow (세배) while saying “새해 복 많이 받으세요”(May you receive many good fortune this year). I always looked forward to this time as my parents, my grandparents, my aunt and uncles, would each give us money (세배돈). Then after all of that, for the rest of the time we played this new year’s game (윷놀이). I remember those days with much fondness.”
And our Vietnamese teacher, Thuy, has equally fond memories:
“Chúc Mừng Năm Mới (Happy New Year)! Tết Nguyên Đán (or in short, Tết) is the most important and holiday celebration in Vietnamese culture. In my family, we like most Vietnamese people, celebrate Tết as a way to express our respect and remembrance for our parents and ancestors by offering lavish meals and praying to our ancestors. We follow the simple rituals and customs to wish all family members, relatives, and friends good health, greater luck and prosperity for the year to come. And then we have New Year Grand Party at one of our family member’s home with relatives and lavish meals and the best wines! Traditional foods are Bánh Chưng/Bánh Tét (Sticky rice cake/Pickled onions); Dưa Hành, Giò Chả (Vietnamese sausage), Xôi Gấc (Red Sticky Rice). Of course, drinking wine – important to our family members- will make our family warm and fully energetic for the whole year. This year is year of the Dog.”
Finally, you may be wondering about the lunar new year in Japan. Here is what one of our Japanese teachers, Maki, says:
“No we do not celebrate lunar new year. It looks like we stopped using lunar calendar in 1872.”
That was during the Meiji restoration period when Japan was modernizing rapidly and they switched to the Gregorian calendar.
This lunar year is the year of the dog. We hope you find an opportunity to get out and visit a part of the city celebrating, enjoy their food, customs and maybe even learn a couple of words in their language. Happy lunar new year!