Glasgow Students Share Ways to Celebrate Lunar New Year


Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year, is a holiday celebrated by millions of Asians around the world. It’s a highly anticipated event for Asian Americans in our Glasgow community. This year it is celebrated on February 1st, however, the date changes annually. During Lunar New Year, there are hundreds of traditions that can be unique to different families, with the details changing with each different country and culture. Asian American students at Glasgow share some of these traditions:


As with many holidays, food plays a very important role. For example, in the Philippines, it is considered lucky and good fortune if you eat round fruits on New Years. In Vietnam, some of the special foods to eat are Bánh chưng, a square shaped sticky pork rice cake, and Bánh tét, a cylinder shaped savory and sweet rice cake, both wrapped in banana leaves. It is also customary to leave food offerings to deceased loved ones, so that they can enjoy the delicious food as well. 


2. Garment (Wardrobe)

During Lunar New Year, many countries wear red, as the color symbolizes luck and prosperity to that individual. Additionally, for important gatherings, it is expected to wear formal wear specific to that country. For example, if a person was Vietnamese, they would likely wear a traditional Vietnamese silk Áo dài, which is a long dress for women, flowing down to their feet paired with loose pants. With men wearing a shorter version that usually ends at their knees. In China women wear what they call a cheongsam in Cantonese and a qipao in Mandarin. It is a high neck dress with short sleeves and a slit partway up the side. In Korea, women wear a long puffed up dress with long sleeves called a hanbok.


3. Entertainment

Just like any other holiday, there are many traditions that will keep you entertained throughout the day. Many local cultural settings will hold performances, festivals and parades to celebrate, which will likely include certain performances called  lion dance or dragon dance. These dances usually have two people puppeteering a big lion costume and mimic the movements of a lion. The dragon dance is similar, but instead it has more people involved, and they don’t have to put a costume on. There is also a traditional Vietnamese game called “Bầu cua tôm cá”, which literally translates to “gourd, crab, shrimp, fish”. It is a betting game, where it has a board with six pictures on it – a fish, prawn, crab, rooster, deer, and a gourd – involving 3 dice where each side corresponds to a specific picture. You bet money on whether the dice will show the picture that you chose. Vietnam also has a game called “Cờ Cá Ngựa” which is a game with similar rules to the popular game “SORRY!” A commonly played game in China is “Mahjong” which includes tiled pieces with detailed symbols and Chinese characters. The objective of this game is to draw and discard your tiles until you get four sets and an eye first, making you the winner. 


4. Decorations

There are various decorations one might adorn their homes with. Many people have red and gold paper lanterns that they put outside their house, as well as fake firecrackers. Like the common wardrobe worn on Lunar New Year, red is everywhere, to give themselves, their deceased, or their family luck and prosperity. In Vietnam, during Lunar New Year, families decorate their house with hoa mai, a vibrant yellow flower with an orange stigma. Another flower commonly used in Vietnamese households is hoa dao, a delicate pink flower that looks really similar to Japanese cherry blossoms. 


5. Superstitions (and other miscellaneous traditions)

Many countries have their own traditions or superstitions.  In Vietnam, three days before Lunar New Year, children should thank their teachers, peers, or friends who’ve contributed or helped them in their life. Two days before Lunar New Year, children visit their aunts, uncles, and cousins and wish all of them good luck, prosperity, wealth, etc. On the last day until Lunar New Year, families stay up until the New Year’s arrival by watching firework shows, listening to Lunar New Year music, and having a joyful family dinner in which afterward children must wish their parents and elders fortunes along with thanking them for bringing them into the world, supporting them, etc. Families also clean their house to prevent the bad luck and misfortunates from the past. Another tradition that is likely familiar to many people even if they don’t celebrate Lunar New Year are the red envelopes. These envelopes usually contain money inside of them, and are given to the younger generation by their elders. As mentioned earlier, the color red represents good fortune and wealth, which is likely why the envelopes are  that color. In Mandarin these envelopes are called “hongbao”, “lai see” in Cantonese and “lì xì” in Vietnamese. 

There are many other traditions and ways to celebrate Lunar New Year not mentioned in this article. We hope that you’ve learned something new about some different cultures!