I bet most of you have heard of Lunar New Year -- or Chinese New Year, as it is more commonly known. Lunar New Year is more formal as many other Asian cultures celebrate it -- where it's going to signify the beginning of the year 4710 in Chinese New Year terms! Of course, if you've heard of this, you might also know that it's the year of the Dragon, or the Water Dragon since there are two types of dragons for the Chinese population. The zodiac animal changes every year, and every twelfth year, the cycle restarts. The calendar is based on lunar movement (movement of the moon) or lunisolar movement (the movement of the sun and the moon). The dates of Lunar New Year have always been different because of this; it won't fall on the same day as the previous year.
The mark of this event will start on January 23rd, 2012 and end on February 6th, 2012. It lasts for fifteen days. However, it also marks the beginning of many practices celebrated by a lot of people around the world. My family, and many others, are among these people. Traditions have been passed on, carried on, no matter where they reside. I celebrate the Chinese version of Lunar New Year, which involves many customs, some of which my family don't or do honor.
For example, we cook and prepare many festive foods like taro cake (it's alive!), sticky cake, or nian gao (Can I eat it uncooked, Mom?), etc. We clean up the house, hang up banners and such, and take my grandma out for dinner. Of course, we also trade money in red envelopes and get together with family and friends. We break the traditions like not washing our hair, presumed that our hair contains our "good luck" (my dad and I have fairly oily hair so we can't not wash our hair), and others that I can't seem to remember. However, we probably won't be able to celebrate it all fully since it falls on school days; weekends will be the ideal time to do these things.
In areas with big Chinese population, like San Francisco Chinatown, there are parades and dragon dances assumed to scare away evil spirits. Loud noises and boisterous firecrackers fill the air to chase them away. Sweets, flowers, and other things are displayed and bought as people bustle by. It's crowded, but you can feel the excitement surrounding you. Sometimes we go to these places and just watch.
Just because we do these things doesn't mean everyone who honors this holiday does them. Other cultures other than Chinese people celebrate this, too. Koreans, Vietnamese, Japanese, and others have this celebration and have just as many traditions. I've heard people at school talk about it, referring to it in different names, though I understand that they're saying and chattering about the same thing: Lunar New Year. Even though we may be different, even slightly different, we share a common thing.
Off to celebrate,
Author's Note: Sources: http://holidays.kaboose.com/what-is-chinese-new-year.html