Lunar New Year: Everything to Know About the Holiday

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lunar new year
AsiaVision/Getty Images

Lunar New Year is one of the biggest international holidays with over 1.5 billion people across the globe celebrating new beginnings. Although the holiday is commonly known as Chinese New Year, Lunar New Year is celebrated by various Asian countries, regions and cultures with different traditions and customs. 

When is Lunar New Year? 

The start of the holiday is determined by the lunar calendar -- the cycles of the moon's phases -- and takes place on the new moon between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20. This year, Lunar New Year begins on Feb. 12, 2021 and is the Year of the Ox. 

Who celebrates Lunar New Year?

Lunar New Year celebrations usually take place over multiple days; the length varies for every culture. In China, Lunar New Year is also known as Spring Festival or Chūnjié. South Korea (Seollal), Vietnam (Tết), Mongolia (Tsagaan Sar) and many other Asian countries and regions celebrate the holiday. Lunar New Year is typically celebrated with traditional foods, family gatherings, festivals and ceremonies.

What Does 'Year of the Ox' Mean? 

Every Lunar New Year correlates to one animal and its characteristics from the Chinese zodiac, which is a cycle of 12 years and 12 animals. 2021 is the Year of the Ox, an animal attributed as hardworking and reliable. Whether you were born in the year of the rat, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog or pig, those who genuinely work hard will find success this year, according to Reader's Digest. If you were born in the year of the ox, it is said 2021 will be the time you will be rewarded for your increasing efforts. 

Will there be virtual celebrations this year? 

As the world continues to follow safety precautions to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, the usual big social gatherings are on hold. However, there are online celebrations for you and the family to virtually enjoy. For example, the Smithsonian American Art Museum is offering a free Lunar New Year Virtual Celebration in partnership with the Chinese Cultural Institute and the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the United States of America. It will stream video performances and Lunar New Year traditions. 

Check out books to read and movies and shows to stream for Lunar New Year 2021 below. 

Beijing - The Traditions of the Chinese New Year
Little Dot Studios/TRACKS/YouTube
Watch this 45-minute documentary from TRACKS, a YouTube travel channel, on the festivities and traditions that take place in Beijing for the Chinese Spring Festival. 
STREAM ON YOUTUBE

Lucky Chow
Lucky Chow
Co-hosted by Danielle Chang and William Li, 'Lucky Chow' is a series that takes audiences on a feast of delicious and diverse Asian foods across America, diving into the personal stories, experiences and heritage of the people who make them. 
STREAM ON LUCKYCHOW.ORG

The Joy Luck Club
Buena Vista Pictures
Based on the novel of the same name by Amy Tan, 'The Joy Luck Club' is a beloved film that follows four Chinese-American women, their relationships with their Chinese immigrant mothers and the struggle between two cultures and generations. 
STREAM ON AMAZON PRIME

Crazy Rich Asians, Henry Golding, Constance Wu
Warner Bros. Pictures
'Crazy Rich Asians,' starring Constance Wu, Henry Golding and Michelle Yeoh, is based on Kevin Kwan's bestselling rom-com novel. The 2018 movie is the first contemporary Hollywood studio film to feature an all-Asian cast since 'The Joy Luck Club' in 1993. It's satirical, glitzy and over-the-top, while exploring Chinese culture in Singapore. 
STREAM ON HBO MAX

mulan
Disney
For a fun virtual movie night with the family, stream the 2020 live-action 'Mulan,' an action-packed re-telling of the Chinese folklore heroine Hua Mulan, who disguised herself as a man to fight in battle in place of her aging father. 
STREAM ON DISNEY+

'Our Lunar New Year: Celebrating Lunar New Year in Asian Communities' by Yobe Qiu is a children's book that educates kids (and adults!) on how Chinese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese and Indian families celebrate Lunar New Year. 
$18 AT AMAZON

Thi Bui's debut graphic novel, 'The Best We Could Do,' poignantly illustrates her and her family's experience -- particularly her parents' -- in escaping war-torn Vietnam in the '70s and the struggles they faced while building a new life as an immigrant family in the United States. 
$16 AT AMAZON

if i had your face book
Ballantine Books/Amazon
Frances Cha's page-turning debut novel, 'If I Had Your Face,' tells the story of four Korean women living in modern day Seoul. Their interconnected lives give a riveting glimpse into South Korean society, beauty standards and contemporary culture, while serving as a reminder that with strong female friendships and resilience you can get through anything. 
$19 AT AMAZON

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