Year of the Tiger: Chinese and Lunar New Year explained

red lanterns for chinese new year

Jessica Taylor Yates

Posted January 31, 2022


This February, you will hear celebrations of Lunar New Year, Chinese New Year, and the Year of the Tiger. But what does it all mean, and what's the difference?

While many of us celebrated the new year on December 31st, for many members of our multicultural community, Lunar New Year is the time to celebrate. Celebrated by 1.5 billion people worldwide, Lunar New Year (February 1, in 2022) is a time to celebrate the lunar calendar through food, rituals, traditions, and celebrations.

But what is Lunar New Year all about? And what does the Year of the Tiger have in store for 2022? 

*Ensure you are following your local government guidelines when it comes to travel and recreational activity. For the most up-to-date advice, please check the Coronavirus Victoria website.*


Why do people celebrate Chinese and Lunar New Year? 

What is the Lunar New Year?

Chinese New Year celebrates the second ‘new moon’ on the lunar calendar (also known as a lunisolar calendar). In the northern hemisphere, it also marks the start of spring, a time to reunite with family and the time to wish for luck, wealth, and prosperity for the year ahead.  

When is Lunar New Year?

Whilst the date fluctuates depending on the lunisolar calendar, it generally falls in late January to early February. In 2022, the Lunar New Year is on February 1st.

What is the difference between Chinese New Year and Lunar New Year?

While they can be used interchangeably amongst some groups, there is a distinction. The Lunar New Year is celebrated on different dates by a variety of cultures. Outside of China, the term ‘Lunar New Year’ is more widely used. 

 

Chinese New Year meal

During Chinese and Lunar New Year, family get together to celebrate and may have foods to symbolise luck, wealth and prosperity for the year ahead. Image: Getty. 


 

Who celebrates Lunar New Year?

Chinese New Year is celebrated in China, where it is a public holiday and one of the biggest celebrations of the year. It is also celebrated as Lunar New Year in Asian countries including Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, South Korea, and across parts of southeast Asia.

Many people with Asian heritage also partake in the festivities as it is also celebrated in many Western cities, including Melbourne.  

How long does Lunar New Year go for?

Lunar New Year generally goes for 15 days – from Lunar New Year’s Eve to the following Lantern Festival (the next full moon).

This year, the Lunar New Year Lantern Festival will be on February 15th 2022, where those celebrating adorn the streets with colourful lanterns to symbolise reuniting with family and the end of the Lunar New Year festivities.

What are the superstitions associated with luck and good fortune for Lunar New Year?

Lunar New Year is a time to look towards a new year and good fortune. There are plenty of superstitions around this time, too.

In preparation, people may look to ‘sweep out’ misfortune from the home out of the old year, and hang up poems on red paper (couplets) for good luck and prosperity.

On Lunar New Year, it is widely believed not to do any washing of or sweeping on the New Year to avoid ‘washing’ good fortune away, to avoid unlucky words like ‘illness’ or outward crying, and to avoid colours associated with mourning such as black and white.

Door Gods, or mén shén, are hung up in entranceways facing each other to ward off evil spirits.

Why is the colour red used so much?

Many red emblems are also seen on envelopes, clothing, lanterns and decorations. Known as a lucky colour, red is seen to symbolise happiness, prosperity, luck and good fortune. 

 

Chinese New Year dragon in Melbourne

Dragon dances take place to ward off evil spirits during Chinese and Lunar New Year. Image: Getty. 


 

What is the Chinese Zodiac?

The lunisolar calendar follows a 12-year cycle that is represented by the Chinese zodiac, each with its own animal. The zodiac assigns animal signs based on birth year, which they attribute with personal attributes and premonitions for the new year. The year 2022 falls to the Year of the Tiger.

The origin story in Chinese folklore goes back to an Emperor who wants 12 animal guards, who raced for the highest order. This was won by a rat (first year). We are now in the third animal phase on the zodiac calendar - the tiger.

What does Year of the Tiger mean?

According to the Chinese zodiac, those born in the Year of the Tiger are seen as brave, thoughtful, and independent. It is associated with those born in the following years:  1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, and 2022.

How do people celebrate Lunar New Year?

Traditionally, those who celebrate have a large family meal on Lunar New Year’s Eve, and then enjoy the festivities for the following 15 days. People celebrating may incorporate symbolic traditions, such as eating fish, which is associated with wealth, or noodles as a wish for ‘longevity.’

People may also give red envelopes with money inside (hóngbāo) to others for good wishes, set off fireworks and dragon dances to ward off evil spirits (Nian, the monster afraid of red), offer sacrifices to ancestors for protection, reunite with family and enjoy the festivities.

Different countries have separate traditions. For example, in China and Vietnam, the event correlates with the start of spring, so many floral arrangements adorn houses, streets, and venues.

In South Korea, decorative bird decorations like paper cranes are also hung up for longevity and good fortune. While in Tibet, children bring gifts to their elders, and in Mongolia, a pastry tower is made to represent Mount Sumeru - a holy mountain.

What’s on for the Lunar and Chinese New Year in Melbourne in 2022?

While many communities celebrate in their own way, you can also keep up-to-date with the City of Melbourne to find out about events to welcome in the Year of the Tiger in and around the city. 

 


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