From Lanterns to Firecrackers: A Look at Lunar New Year Traditions

Lunar New Year is a vibrant festival celebrating the coming of spring and the beginning of the lunisolar calendar that is observed in many Asian cultures and communities around the world. Symbolizing the passage from winter into spring, the holiday is rooted in steep traditions to purge the old to make way for the new prosperous year ahead. 

Below is a roundup of some of the many rituals celebrated by cultures who observe Lunar New Year across the world. 


Cleaning and Decoration 

Leading up to the Lunar New Year, many cultures honor the ritual of cleaning their entire home and paying off old debts, symbolizing the removal of negativity and making space for good luck to enter. After a thorough cleaning, homes, businesses, and neighborhoods are transformed with vibrant decorations like red couplets (paper strips with black or golden characters written on top), lanterns, banners, and floral decorations, enhancing the festive spirit and inviting in good fortune. 


Family Reunions and Feasts 

Central to the celebration is the concept of moving into the spring and bringing in the new, and to do this, millions journey home for friend and family reunions across all cultures who honor the festival. The New Year’s Eve dinner, known as Nian Ye Fan in China, is when families gather around a table laden with symbolic dishes. Ancestor remembrance takes place with the burning of incense, while elders generously distribute good luck pocket money (Ya Sui Qian in China, or Seh Bae Don in Korea), to the younger generation in red envelopes. 


New Year’s Eve Vigil (Shou Sui) 

On the night before the first day of the new year, many families observe the ancient practice of keeping vigil through the night with activities like enjoying tea, symbolic foods, and playing traditional games. At midnight the spectacle of noisy firecrackers signals the arrival of the new year, as well as colorful parades that line the streets. 


New Year’s Day Traditions 

On New Year’s Day, the cleansing continues with thorough baths and changing into new or traditional clothing (each culture has specific traditional dress for the celebration), which symbolizes the washing away of bad luck. Family and friends gather on New Year’s Day and the days that follow to give well wishes and welcome others into the new calendar year. 


As diverse as the cultures that celebrate it, Lunar New Year embodies a blend of ancient rituals and modern festivities, uniting communities worldwide in the spirit of renewal and hope. Read more about how different cultures celebrate Lunar New Year, and we wish you luck and prosperity in the new year.