Exploring the History and Origins of Lunar New Year Traditions
Millions of individuals around Asia and international Asian diaspora communities will observe the commencement of lunar new year festivities this weekend, signifying the termination of the Zodiac year of the Tiger and the initiation of the Year of the Rabbit – or Cat for citizens residing in Vietnam. The opening days of the holiday typically evoke a lull in commercial enterprise as relatives gather together. For numerous migrant workers from China, it is often the only period that they are able to travel back to their home towns. This commemoration is deeply entrenched in custom and heavily emphasizes family orientation.
As a Chinese-Malaysian, Lunar New Year is an occasion for preserving and continuing traditional Chinese customs for the next generation, explains Daniel Lee Lih Wei, a -year-old father of two hailing from Klang, a suburban town located near Kuala Lumpur’s Sunway University where he manages research. “I aspire to expose my children to our extensive culture and heritage so that they can utilize these experiences as part of their lifelong voyage,” he adds. “It is all about granting them with exposure and instilling the memories which I was privileged to have.
As a parent, Lee Lih Wei is mindful of the importance of fostering cultural traditions in his children, aged four and one. Consequently, he has planned an array of festivities during the build-up to the New Year that will allow them to partake in activities such as playing with firecrackers, enjoying cookies and witnessing traditional lion dances in elaborate, brightly coloured costumes. These performances, occurring across the nation, symbolise luck and prosperity. To make the most of the occasion, Lee Lih Wei will even take a week off work and dress his family in coordinating red outfits for the reunion with their family over two days. Furthermore, per tradition, he is expecting substantial gifts from elders to bless his children.
Last year, Wen Xu experienced disruption in her travel plans to her home town in a small Anhui county due to Covid- restrictions; however, this time, the -year-old has been able to make the journey from Hong Kong, where she recently moved to work as a reporter. This is made possible by recent developments in China, where the government discontinued its zero-Covid policy back in December. Consequently, Xu is one of the hundreds of millions of individuals who have been given the opportunity to visit their family on the eve of the Lunar New Year. Lee Lih Wei remarks that modernisation entails they will be having lunch with his wife’s family and dinner with his own.
Xu expresses her excitement as she anticipates being reunited with her uncle, aunt and cousin, who will be traveling to her home from a nearby town for New Year’s Eve. Xu plans to host a reunion dinner containing traditional family dishes such as steamed pork with rice flour and bone broth to welcome the guests. During this week of food, relaxation and catching up with relatives, Xu and her cousin will have the opportunity to reconnect after her cousin’s return from Canada. Additionally, Xu plans to film her mother preparing a traditional Chinese health food called ejiao. Growing up, Xu and her cousin would always anticipate these special reunions with great enthusiasm.
My cousin and I annually partake in a meal together and ascend the stairs to count the funds we had obtained in the form of customary red envelopes from our older family members. “Despite having reached adulthood, my cousin and I still receive red packets,” she states. Unfortunately, there is sorrow this year as her grandfather suffers from COVID- and cannot join them for dinner; he must reside in his third-floor room with an oxygen machine. Xu’s Year of the Tiger was prosperous professionally, but not significantly so with regards to relationships. Moving into the coming period, her desire is to locate a special someone.
In conclusion, this upcoming reunion dinner marks a joyous occasion for Xu and her family. Not only will they get the chance to reconnect with Xu’s long-distance cousin and enjoy traditional family dishes, but they will also take part in a meaningful activity that gives them the opportunity to observe the traditional health practices that their ancestors have relied on for centuries. This holiday season will be an unforgettable experience for Xu and her family as they are reminded of their shared history, culture and love for each other.