Lunar New Year: A Global Celebration

·Executive Producer, Yahoo
·4 min read

Get out the firecrackers, red envelopes and mandarin oranges Lunar New Year is here and 2022 marks the year of the Tiger. More than 1.7 billion people across the globe celebrate what is known as a fresh start in the lunar calendar.

People born in the Year of the Tiger are considered to be brave, confident and even competitive. That might explain some things about celebrities born in the Year of the Tiger: Leo DiCaprio, Tom Cruise, Marilyn Monroe, Penelope Cruz, Rosie O’Donnell, Usain Bolt, and Amanda Gorman.

What is Lunar New Year?

“Lunar New Year is really about new beginnings, it's about happiness,” said Nancy Yao Maasbach, President of the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA). “It's about colors like the color red that can exude excitement and energy; and celebrating traditions; giving generosities. Eating together, sitting around a table, getting together with families. And the interesting thing is we've all been so starved of that for the last couple of years (with the pandemic). This opportunity to say let this be the new start that we've been looking for.”

Lunar New Year is celebrated across many Asian communities, the diaspora all over the world, which is in every pocket of every city and every country.

Joanna C. Lee, co-author of the ‘Pocket Chinese Almanac’ that focuses on the Chinese Zodiac, with her husband Ken Smith says, “We're talking about really, not only just Asians celebrating it, also people who love the Asian traditions.”

Some of those traditions include handing out red envelopes with money inside, elders give to the kids and married couples give to the unmarried. Other Lunar New Year celebrations include fireworks displays and lion dances to ward off bad spirits.

“It's really exciting for everyone in America with that we're celebrating it and because of the accessibility and because we're trying to be so much more inclusive, that we're seeing a sort of a metamorphosis of the holiday in a lot of different foods and drinks and celebrations,” Yao Maasbach said.

Predicting the Year Ahead

The Lunar New Year is supposed to begin with the first new moon of the year. Normally, it's around January or February of the solar year. Lee and Smith breakdown the year in the ‘Pocket Chinese Almanac’ telling its readers what some of the good and bad things are to be aware of everyday.

“We all read the same data, we all look at the sun, we all look at the moon, scientifically all of that is the same, but where we interpret and where we put the stress that's where the culture comes in,” explains Smith. “And so you look at something, say in the Western calendar, Mercury's in retrograde, if you look at that, the Chinese have their own interpretation for sure about why the elements of the universe are in disarray. The Chinese almanac always breaks something down into good days and bad days.”

“The pocket Chinese Almanac, is actually based on a Geomancer, who's based in Hong Kong, his name is Warwick Wong,” said Lee. “Geomancers are the people who calculate all these elements of the heavenly, the earthly, and everything else, and the movement of stars, Sun and Moon.”

Every Lunar New Year represents an element from the Heavenly stem and the Earthly stem. Not all Asian cultures reference the same Zodiac signs in the same way.

“Heavenly stem only has five elements. And as you can imagine, we are talking about metal, wood, water, fire, and Earth,” says Lee. “And then you have the earthly elements. And we actually are talking about what we call the Chinese zodiac of the animals.”

“The lunar calendar is made up of 12 animals,” explains Yao Maasbach. “And it's all based on the Chinese folklore of this great race. And what's amazing is that the rat, despite the fact that it's the smallest of the animals, won this race, but that's because it was cunning, and it jumped on the back of the ox. And right before the finish line, the rat jumped off the ox and won the race. And that is exactly the chronology of the animals. So the rat is the first animal in the zodiac. And then we have the ox and then this year is the tiger, the third animal, then the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the goat, the monkey, the rooster, the dog, and then the slow pig.”

2022 Year of the Water Tiger

2022 is the year of the Water Tiger. Yao Maasbach tells us the Tiger is the king of all beasts and the water symbolizes washing and cleansing. But although water represents this cleansing it also moves fast and swiftly so there is reason to be cautious. Lee says the water element this year plays an interesting role.

“Warwick reminded us, we should also remember to be aware, and to actually just know when there's a changing circumstance to quickly adapt and get away from danger.”

Lee and Smith agreed the biggest effort one can make to ensure a good year, as the Geomancer reminds us, is to be kind and be kind hearted to people around you. If you exude positive energy that will be reflected back to you.