Are you seeing red? And lots of tigers? That’s because today is the first day of a new lunisolar calendar! The new moon of the new year—which can fall anywhere between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20 on the Gregorian calendar—is celebrated throughout East Asia and the Middle East, but most of the celebratory themes we will notice for the next two weeks are heavily influenced by Chinese traditions surrounding Chinese Spring Festival.
The Lucky Color Red
The color red symbolizes joy, virtue, truth, and sincerity. In the Mandarin language, the word “red” sounds similar to the sound of the word for “prosperous,” making the color itself symbolic of success and prosperity. As the Lunar New Year approaches, households, businesses, and public spaces decorate with red paper signs, symbols, sweets, and more in hopes that all the good things the color symbolizes will be welcomed along with it. Red envelopes filled with money (from a few dollars to hundreds!) are given to children by older and married family members and friends. The envelopes are then tucked under pillows and slept on for seven nights before they can be opened. Wearing red clothes during this time scares off evil spirits and misfortune as does the lighting of red firecrackers.
The Year of the Tiger
According to Chinese astrology, the Chinese zodiac follows a 12-year cycle and each year in the cycle is associated with an animal. The animals earned their places in the zodiac based on the order they arrived in the legend of the great race to the Jade Emperor. The animals in order are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. People born under each animal sign are said to have personality traits, successes, and misfortunes aligned with those of their animal. Throughout life, each sign can expect different experiences based on how their birth year relates to the current one.
Lunar New Year 2022 is a Year of the Tiger! As we’d expect, tigers are brave, competitive, authoritative, and confident, though they can also be impetuous and boastful! In general, this Year of the Tiger is expected to be a year of prosperity and possibility overall.
Celebrating at Home
There are many ways to enjoy Lunar New Year celebrations with your family! Cities with large Asian populations will likely have big celebrations where the public is invited to see dragon and lion dances, watch presentations, and purchase traditional foods and craft items. Social distancing is still important in many populated areas though, so if a city-wide party isn’t possible, enjoy eating steamed or fried dumplings, glutinous rice balls or cakes, or wontons at home. Give mandarin oranges or kumquats to anyone you wish luck and prosperity and say, “May all your wishes be fulfilled!”