(CNN) – Take your favorite red shirt; It’s time to celebrate the Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival.
We bid farewell to the Tiger and enter the Year of the Rabbit on January 22, 2023.
Millions of families around the world are preparing to celebrate one of the biggest festivals of the year.
If you’re new to the Lunar New Year, here’s a quick guide to the most common traditions and superstitions associated with the event.
The Legend of Monster Neon
There are countless folklores associated with the Lunar New Year, but the legend of “neon” is the most iconic and fun.
Legend has it that Neon was a ferocious underwater beast with sharp teeth and horns. Every Lunar New Year’s Eve, it crawled across the land and attacked a nearby village.
On one such occasion, while the villagers were hiding, a mysterious old man appeared and urged them to stay in the village despite being warned of impending doom.
To the surprise of the villagers, the old man and the village escaped unharmed.
The man said he had put red banners on the door, set off firecrackers and dressed in red clothes to terrorize Neon.
That’s how the fiery color — down to the undergarments — became a Lunar New Year tradition of hanging red banners with faint phrases and lighting firecrackers or firecrackers, all of which are still followed today.
Fun aside, the Lunar New Year will actually be a lot of work.
Festivals often last for 15 days — or more — during which various tasks and activities take place.
It all starts a week before the New Year.
Before we begin, a quick note: “Happy New Year!” There are different ways to say that. Depending on where you are, we’re sticking with Mandarin and Cantonese in this story. We have included Roman versions of both languages in our descriptions of the various traditions.
January 15: Preparation
Festive cakes and puddings are made on the 24th day of the last lunar month, the week before the Lunar New Year.
The word for cakes and puddings is “gao” in Mandarin or “gou” in Cantonese, which sounds similar to the word “tall”.
But any preparation for the Lunar New Year starts at one’s front door — without hanging red banners at home with auspicious phrases and sayings (called fai chun in Cantonese or chunlian in Mandarin).
January 19: Final cleaning
A major cleaning is done in homes on the 28th day of the last lunar month, which falls on January 19 this year.
Numerous other rules and superstitions are attached to the Lunar New Year.
For example, don’t wash or cut your hair on the first day of the new year.
Why? The Chinese character for hair is the first character in the word for prosperity. So washing or cutting it is considered to wash away your luck.
Avoid buying footwear for the entire lunar month, as losing shoes (hi) sounds like sighing in Cantonese.
January 21 (Lunar New Year’s Eve): Big Feast
A big family dinner is usually held on Lunar New Year’s Day, which falls on January 21 this year.
The menu is carefully selected to include dishes associated with luck, including fish (the Chinese word sounds like the word for “surplus”), puddings (representing progress) and gold ingots (like dumplings).
In China, the dishes served at these classic dinners vary from north to south. For example, Northern Chinese have dumplings and noodles, whereas Southern Chinese cannot live without steamed rice.
But whatever foods you prefer, Lunar New Year dishes are a feast of word play.
January 22 (Lunar New Year): Family visit
The first few days of the Lunar New Year, especially the first two days, often test one’s stamina, appetite and social skills as many travel and visit immediate family, other relatives and friends.
Bags with gifts and fruit are stored for everyone who visits the homes of elders and friends, who will offer gifts and snacks to visitors after exchanging conversations at Lunar New Year parties.
Married people should give red packets to those who haven’t tied the knot — children and unmarried juniors.
These red envelopes are believed to protect children from evil spirits known as xie sui. The packets are called yasui kian/nagat seoi sin and are meant to ward off those spirits.
January 24: Chi Koo/Cheek How or Red Mouth
The third day of the Lunar New Year (this year falls on January 24) is called “chi kou/cek hau” or red mouth. Arguments are believed to happen more on this day, so people visit temples and avoid social interactions.
Every year, certain Chinese zodiac signs collide negatively with the stars. Visiting the temple is a great way to resolve those conflicts and bring peace in the coming months.
January 28: People’s Birthday
The seventh day of the Lunar New Year (January 28) is said to be the day the Chinese Mother Goddess Nua created mankind. Hence, it is called Renri/Jan Jat (People’s Birthday).
Different communities in Asia serve different birthday foods on that day.
For example, people in Malaysia eat yisang, or “prosperity dough” of raw fish and shredded vegetables, while Cantonese people eat sweet rice balls.
February 5: Festival of Lights
The highlight of the entire spring festival takes place on the 15th and final day (February 5, 2023).
In ancient Chinese society, it was the only day when young women were allowed to go out to admire the lanterns and meet boys. As a result, it is also known as Chinese Valentine’s Day.
Nowadays, cities around the world put on massive lantern displays and fairs on the final day of the festival.