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Festival of the Month - Lunar New Year​​​​​​​

This week marks the start of Lunar New Year! The festival, also known as Spring Festival and Chinese New Year, always begins in accordance with the start of a new moon on the Chinese calendar. Rather than following the Gregorian calendar, which heralds in a brand new year every January 1st, the Chinese calendar follows the phases of the moon, where the emergence of a new full moon symbolises the start of the year instead, which usually falls between January 21st and February 20th every year. In addition to China, it is also celebrated across many parts of Asia and South-East Asian, in countries such as Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Tibet, Mongolia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Each new year also co-coincides with that of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals, where 2022 is the Year of the Tiger. Chinese tradition believes each animal's unique personality is attributed to the people born within their corresponding year, and so anyone born this year will be attributed to the personality of a tiger– brave, confident, and expected to face each challenge with resilience and willpower.

Lunar New Year is traditionally a time to feast with family members, as well as honouring ancestors and deities. The celebrations usually last for around two weeks in total, from the New Year’s eve to the Lantern festival, which is held on the 15th day. Although variations are different across the country, the theme is the same: seeing out the old year and wishing luck and prosperity for the new year ahead. Lunar New Year is celebrated by greeting people with the phrase 'Gung Hay Fat Choy!' loosely translated as 'congratulations and be prosperous'. It is tradition to wear bright floral colours during this time to symbolise the incoming of Spring. Friends and family are visited and ancestors honoured by the giving and receiving of red envelopes filled with money to represent good fortune. Delicious meals are consumed, such as 'Song Gao' (a sweet rice cake) and long noodles called 'longevity noodles' - it is believed the longer the noodles are the longer and happier your life will be! In fact, every single meal eaten during the festival has a special significance and represents an important aspect of the celebration. Outdoors, bright floral colours and arrangements are decorated and seen, fireworks are set off, lanterns are lit, Lion and Dragon dances (both symbols of prosperity and luck) are performed in public along with folk singing and poetry. Temples are visited to honour deities and to pray for good luck, good health, fortune and positivity all around.

The children at Whitehall Junior have been learning about the festival this week and participating in different activities to understand more about it. We would like to wish you all a Happy Lunar New Year if you are celebrating, and invite you to share your experiences with us, if you so wish. Gung Hay Fat Choy!