On Friday, February 12, 2021, people all over the world celebrated Lunar New Year, better known as Chinese New Year or Spring Festival. This date signified the end of winter and the beginning of spring, as well as the beginning of the Year of the Ox in the Chinese twelve animal zodiac cycle. All over the world, billions of people celebrate this day by putting up decorations, eating reunion dinner with their family, lighting fireworks and firecrackers, and giving each other gifts and money in red envelopes.
While the origins of Lunar New Year are not exactly clear, it is believed that the holiday was first celebrated during the Shang Dynasty about 3,500 years ago. Lunar New Year is associated with many different myths and stories, but its main legend focuses on a dragon named Nian. Nian terrorized villages, destroyed homes, and ate all the livestock, and the villagers had no idea what to do. Then, it was discovered that Nian was afraid of the color red, fire, and loud noises. In order to keep the dragon from returning to the villages, the people would have celebrations where they would wear red, light firecrackers and fireworks, and light candles. To this day, dragon dancers dress up as Nian and dragons in general to honor this legend.
In my family, we have celebrated Lunar New Year for as long as I can remember. I am biracial, so being able to share my Chinese culture with my non-Asian family is also something I find quite interesting. This year, due to the pandemic, my family hosted an online Zoom party with both my Dad and Mom’s sides of the family. We played games, ate special foods, and gifted each other red envelopes as a sign of good luck and prosperity for the upcoming year. One of the traditions in my family that I have not heard of anywhere else is that my grandparents give us peanuts, chocolate, and oranges along with red envelopes in order to symbolize vitality and good health. While I’m not sure exactly why those foods symbolize that, they are certainly a wonderful treat that comes with a lot of meaning from my grandparents. If there’s one thing that I appreciate the most about my culture, it’s that I get to experience a unique holiday every year with my loved ones!