By Ben Watkins, Co-Social Chair
Lion dances. Hot pot. Red envelopes full of money.
These are just a few things that run through my mind whenever I think of Lunar New Year. Growing up, we would gather with the same group of Taiwanese families and celebrate the evening with lots of good food, Chinese words games I never understood, and baskets and baskets of clementines. If we were lucky, someone would bring an N64, and we’d hole ourselves in the back room of the church while our parents sang there hearts out on karaoke.
Where does this holiday actually come from though? They sure weren’t singing 月亮代表我的心 before the 1900s. I decided to do some fact checking and learn a little more about the roots and evolution of this worldwide holiday.
- The exact date is unknown, but the holiday has been traced back to the Shang Dynasty of ancient China, around 1600 BC, where astrological records indicate that the emperor decreed the celebration a religious holiday, which typically fell between the middle of the 12th and 1st month of the lunar year.
- Every year celebrates a different zodiac symbol. However, the dragon always makes an appearance because it is said that the the royal family were descendants of the mystical creature.
- Food has always been an important part of the holiday. Dumplings represented the full moon and family unity. Long noodles symbolized a long life (and were never to be cut while eaten). Fish was always included in the final course of dinner, and because it represented abundance, was never eaten.
- Taiwan made the official move to the Western calendar in 1912, although Lunar New Year is still celebrated as a national holiday today.
- The money in red envelopes were given to children in hopes of suppressing the evil, and prolonging the life of young kids.
- Cleaning the house and hanging upside-down “福” signs were to rid the house of evil spirits and invite luck, happiness, and prosperity to the family.
This is just a short list of the history and traditions that have stemmed from the celebration since the beginning of time. One thing for sure, there is no wrong way to celebrate the holiday. However you’re choosing the spend the holiday (hopefully with TAP!), we wish you the best, happiest, and most wonderful Lunar New Year!