How Lunar New Year is celebrated around the world

Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year or Spring Festival in China, Seollal in Korea, and Tết in Vietnam, marks the beginning of the lunar calendar. It starts with the year’s first new moon which, in 2023, is on January 22nd.

While Lunar New Year is one of the most important holidays in China, it is also celebrated by more than 1 billion people worldwide each year! 

1. China (Spring Festival)

Chinese New Year, also called Spring Festival, is a 15-day holiday during which people usher out the old year and look forward to the luck and prosperity of the new one. Young people are gifted money in bright red envelopes, and families get together to celebrate with a traditional dinner. 

The last event of Chinese New Year is the Lantern Festival. People carry glowing lanterns in a parade, and dancers perform a dance dressed in dragon costumes.

In the Chinese Zodiac, 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit. Those born in the rabbit year are believed to be gentle, approachable, and quick-witted. Contrary to what you might think, in China, it is believed that a person’s zodiac year is actually a year of bad luck! Many people wear red for protection and to keep bad spirits at bay. Oranges and other citrus fruits are also commonly eaten since they are considered lucky! 

Chinese New Year is also celebrated in countries throughout Asia with sizable Chinese populations. These include Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines, among others. 

“I spent my childhood in Taiwan, where the international school I attended would host a dragon dance for Chinese New Year, with fireworks and music. After the performance, the children were allowed to run into the empty field to collect the sequins that had fallen from the dragon.”

– Willow, from California, USA

Children can fold red envelopes for the Year of the Rabbit using this handy worksheet, learn about the origins of the Chinese Zodiac here, or celebrate the Lunar New Year by creating a Mini Book

2. South Korea (Seollal)

2013 Seollal Sketch, National Folk Museum, Seoul, CC BY-SA 2.0

In South Korea, Lunar New Year (called Seollal) is celebrated with family, and many people travel to their hometowns for the holiday. During this time, South Koreans dress in traditional clothing called hanbok, and children show respect to their elders with formal bows called seh bae, during which they kneel deeply with their hands on the ground and wish their elders good fortune in the new year. In return, elders gift children money in silk bags and share words of wisdom for the new year. Kids also play Yut Nori, a traditional board game with wooden sticks. 

“On New Year, I usually wear my hanbok (a traditional Korean dress) and bow to my grandparents. Then, my family will eat my grandma’s delicious tteokguk (rice cake soup) – one of my favorite traditions!”

– Jackie, originally from Korea

Kids can learn more about Korean hanbok clothing with this worksheet, or they can learn how to bow in the traditional Korean way with this seh bae lesson

3. Vietnam (Tết)

Tết, the Vietnamese New Year, is the most important festival of the year in Vietnam. Unlike Chinese New Year, Tết is based on the lunisolar calendar (calculating both the motion of the Earth around the Sun and of the Moon around Earth). This means that it usually falls on the same day as Chinese New Year, but on some rare occasions, the two dates differ. In 2023, though, Tết and Chinese New Year are on the same day: January 22nd. Tết also has a second key difference –  it follows the Vietnamese Zodiac, which means that in Vietnam, 2023 is the Year of the Cat, not the Rabbit! 

The first day of Tết is spent with family, and children receive red envelopes with money from their older relatives. New Year’s Day, in contrast, is celebrated with a parade in the street! People use firecrackers and gongs to ward off evil spirits, and they wear masks and perform lion dances, called múa lân. The lân is an animal between a lion and a dragon and is a symbol of strength in Vietnamese culture. 

Children can get in the spirit of the parade with one of the dragon dance coloring pages below: 

Vietnam also has its own traditional attire — the áo dài — a silk tunic with slits on the sides that’s worn for the New Year. Kids can dress a paper doll in traditional Vietnamese clothing using this worksheet

4. Other parts of the world

Other countries also celebrate Lunar New Year! Mongolia celebrates Tsagaan Sar and Tibet celebrates Losar on Feb 21st in 2023. 

Many countries outside Asia have Lunar New Year celebrations, too. Notably, San Francisco, California, has the oldest and one of the largest Chinese New Year parades outside of Asia. With one of the largest Chinese populations outside of Asia, the Chinatown in Sydney, Australia has over 600,000 people attend its annual New Year celebrations. In London, the celebrations in Chinatown, Leicester Square, and Trafalgar Square attract over 300,000 people yearly. 

Looking for more Lunar New Year resources? See our list of the best resources below, or check out more in our Learning Library.

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