The Lunar New Year is right around the corner, and members of the CPS community will begin celebrations later this week. This year, Lunar New Year falls on Sunday, January 22 (the day this article will be published), and celebrations will occur all across East and Southeastern Asia, such as China, Vietnam, Taiwan, and South Korea, to name a few. The traditions surrounding the Lunar New Year began as a time of feasts and honoring deities and ancestors during the Shang Dynasty in China. The traditions were initially agricultural, celebrating the harvest and praying for a fruitful harvest to come. In 1949, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party, Mao Zedong, banned the celebration of the holiday. However, officials became less resistant to the traditions, and by the late 20th century, a weeklong holiday during the Lunar New Year, named the Spring Festival, was instituted.
Each year the festivities begin with the first new moon at the end of January, and the celebration continues for fifteen days until the full moon. Zodiac animals are a central part of celebrations, representing twelve animals in twelve stations along the path of the sun through the cosmos. Some examples of Zodiac animals are rats, tigers, dragons, and snakes, which all have individual characteristics. In addition to the animals are five elements—earth, water, fire, wood, and metal—which are paired with an animal each year. 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit and Cat! (The reason for both animals can be explained in a story linked at the end of this article) Most Lunar New Year traditions and celebrations center around abundance, unity, and prosperity. Some of the most popular traditions include cleaning to open the new year with good luck and will, rituals of food and paper icons, hanging banners and red paper with messages of good health and fortune, gifting envelopes of money, and eating foods that symbolize certain traits, like glutinous rice for unity and togetherness. The Lunar New Year festivities end with the Lantern Festival, capping off the fifteen days of celebration.
Celebrations at CPS will be led by the Asian American Association and other Asian-identifying affinity clubs, like a potluck later this week. Beyond CPS, San Francisco has the largest Chinese New Year celebration outside of Asia, which would be an excellent time to visit the historic neighborhood and celebrate the new year. Other celebrations could be visiting the Asian Art Museum, which will be holding events later this month to celebrate, and experimenting in the kitchen with some traditional recipes. (Linked at the end of article) Some things to do in preparation for the celebrations include bringing food for the Lunar New Year potluck (reference AAA’s email on Campus News for a link to the spreadsheet to sign up) or wearing traditional clothing to school if you celebrate! Below are some articles I suggest for further reading (or referenced earlier in the article):