What is the Significance of Lunar New Year?

Firecrackers, lion dances, red envelopes with money – these are just some of the things you probably have seen this week. Heck, you might have even noticed South Coast Plaza and Fashion Island boutiques offering and displaying more red merchandise and décor. They’re not preparing for Valentine’s Day if that’s what you’re thinking; they’re celebrating Lunar New Year!

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What is Lunar New Year?

Lunar New Year 2020 falls on January 25th this year, prompting more than 1.5 billion people around the world to celebrate with family, friends and traditional Asian cuisine. The holiday celebration marks the beginning of a new year on the second new moon after the winter solstice. It is celebrated primarily by those originating from mainland East and Southeast Asia like Chinese and Korean, and Vietnamese descent. The Lunar New Year, or Tet holiday, is the grandest and most significant festival among those in Vietnam and Vietnamese communities within the United States, lasting for a week. It’s also the most money-generating holiday for businesses (excluding Christmas, of course), as spending for red-color items and Lunar New Year-themed items increases dramatically during this time. Even travel spending for foreign tourist increase as many flock to Vietnam to witness these festivities.

Fortunes of Red

In many different cultures, the color red symbolizes love, romance, and even evil or bad luck. In Asian cultures, the color red signifies good luck and abundance, combined with the color yellow or gold and the combinations symbolize great fortune. These colors are most notably seen on red envelopes handed to children and the elderly. Traditionally, the lucky money inside ranges from $2 bills to $20 or $100 bills, reflecting lucky numbers for great fortune and wealth.

Popular Lunar New Year Food

Many different cultures celebrate Lunar New Year with different food that symbolizes wealth and longevity, but for Vietnamese families, rice cakes are the most known representation of the Tet holiday. Rice cakes called bánh chưng symbolize the material and the spiritual, said Quyên Di Chúc Bùi, a Vietnamese professor at UCLA. Wrapped in dong or banana leaves, they contain sticky rice with meat or bean fillings.  

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Customs and Decorations

Much like Feng Shui, people of Vietnamese and Chinese heritage believe the arrangement and décor of the home or business before the new year will eliminate the concerns and bad luck from the past year. This is a widely held tradition for Vietnamese Americans in Orange County, home to the largest Little Saigon in the world. Almost every family cleans their house, offices, restaurants, and shops completely in hopes for better luck, fortune, and visitors in the coming year.

Welcoming, spring into their lives, Vietnamese Americans will fill their home or business with beautiful, colorful flowers, such as peach or cherry blossoms, chrysanthemums, orchids, and ochna integrrima. The yellow, pink and red color petals represent joy and prosperity. Vietnamese and Chinese Americans will also hang lanterns, dragons, banners and display plates of citrus fruits to bring in great fortune.

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Most notable about Vietnamese customs for Lunar New Year is their various styles and designs for their clothing called ao dai. Although Western-style clothes are appropriate for daily chores, during the Tet celebration, Vietnamese women, and some men, are expected to wear the traditional tunic or ao dai. These ao dai ranged from various styles to different colors and designs and symbolize pride for Vietnamese people.

What does Tet mean to Vietnamese Americans in Orange County?

Tet is not a time, it is a feeling. It connects people to their homeland, Vietnam, with a never-ending pride. While Lunar New Year is celebrated among some Asian countries, it is significantly special to Vietnamese people because it’s more than just a holiday break. The values and traditions that people share during Tet develop strong connections that link them back to their heritage, regardless of where they physically live. This is particularly important to overseas Vietnamese communities. Tet is the time to put on your best ao dai, have your hair (and makeup for women) perfectly made, and spread happiness and joy to your family, friends, and community. A week of little to no conflicts, stresses or any situation that may bring bad luck into the coming year.

From everyone at Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort, we wish you Chúc mừng năm mới (Happy Lunar New Year) for 2020!

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