Lunar New Year

Were you born in the year of the Dog, the Monkey or maybe the Rooster? Read on to find out more about Lunar New Year and how it is celebrated in some places in Asia.

Do the preparation task first. Then read the article and do the exercises.

The lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon, so the date of Lunar New Year is different each year. However, it is usually in January or February. As well as being celebrated in China, Lunar New Year is also an important festival in many other places, including Vietnam, Singapore and Korea.

Each year is named after one of 12 animals. A traditional story explains how this came to be. One day, the Emperor decided to have a race for all the animals in the country. Unfortunately, only 12 animals actually managed to get to the race. The Emperor rewarded them by naming the 12 years of the lunar calendar after them. The first to finish was the rat, so the first year is named after him. The other eleven, in order, were the ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

A family celebration

Different places celebrate in slightly different ways, but Lunar New Year is very much a family celebration wherever it takes place. The younger generation greet their parents and grandparents with good wishes for the year ahead and show their respect for the older generation. In Korea this is called sebae. The young people kneel on the ground and bow deeply.

Older members of the family give younger ones cash presents, traditionally in small packets. Red packets are used in China and Vietnam, as red is a lucky colour. Nowadays, many people send money electronically too. It is lucky to send money in certain amounts, for example using the number eight, which in Chinese sounds like the word ‘prosper’.

Traditional food

Traditional foods which are eaten at Lunar New Year often have another meaning. For example, in China, many people eat fish dishes because the Chinese word for ‘fish’ sounds similar to ‘surplus’, meaning you will have plenty.

In Korea, people serve a special soup. Thin pieces of rice cake are boiled in a clear soup with slices of beef and vegetables. The rice cake pieces are round and may represent coins and money. It is said that eating this soup at New Year makes you one year older. People joke that if you have two bowls of soup, you’ll be two years older!

A traditional Vietnamese food is square rice cake, wrapped in leaves. It’s stuffed with pork and vegetables and takes many hours to prepare, so many people buy the cake instead of making it.

Other traditions

There are many other Lunar New Year traditions. For example, in Vietnam, people believe that the first person to enter their home in the New Year will decide their fortune for the year ahead. They are careful to invite someone who is kind, well behaved and successful.

In Korea, families often play traditional board games together, such as yunnori. In this game, teams take it in turn to throw four specially shaped sticks into the air. They move around the board depending on how the sticks fall.

In China, many people have firecrackers, which burn and make a loud bang. They watch street performances, where acrobatic dancers dress up as a lion or a dragon. They dance, accompanied by music and drums.

People celebrate Lunar New Year in many different ways, but all the celebrations are about wishing everyone the very best for the year ahead. What do you wish for next year?

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Submitted by jyoti Chaudhary on Mon, 02/05/2022 - 12:43


What do you wish for the new year?
I wish I will go abroad for my study and It would be amazing and if I will go definitely I shall do everything for my better career. and I hope 2023 will be good for me but I have a lot of time in 2022. I do plenty of practice to improve my English language. at the end of this year, I want to improve it somehow my speaking skills.

Submitted by Stela Stoycheva on Wed, 12/01/2022 - 22:02


I hope it will coming lighter and calmly days,we will become live without COVID, we will be healthy, no stress, no trouble with money in a lot of family, we will feel satisfied from the thing we do it for us and people around us. And fingers cross people will value that!
It looking strange and a little bit like a dream...

Submitted by PARIMALA MADIAZHAKAN on Mon, 15/02/2021 - 04:10

My wish for the new year is , hope that the world come back from the Covid-19 pandemic. I also hope that we together fighting the illness and we keep support the frontliners to overcome this situation.
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Submitted by danisep on Thu, 04/02/2021 - 19:05

I've had to listen about this before but I didn't know about how the years received their names, is really interesting and how everything is focus to call prosperity and success. here is completely different, we celebrate the new year on December 31 with family, food and loud music. in another way it is bad luck to say new year wishes to everybody.

Submitted by French Spring on Fri, 24/01/2020 - 20:25

it's crazy ! i'am Persian and we have as same traditions as the Chinese . For our new year ( the first day of spring ) we eat the fish , this is in our tradition and I don't know why ?! we respecte the older like the parents or grandparents but we don't have the same way as a asian , we don't kneel or don't bow :)) . we also have a present as the Chinese , money in the pocket :)

Submitted by omarsupreme47 on Tue, 14/01/2020 - 17:43

I had no do idea about this event i am really thrilled to know about this . And thanks British Council for providing such amazing things for free and i love british council website . If you if you notice any grammatical error correct me.

Submitted by cfabian24 on Tue, 14/01/2020 - 16:58

I have just read this article and to be honest I found it very interesting, I have never heard the real history about how a race animals takes an important role in the begining. Another thing that impact me was about the customs in the food and in the way how they celebrate the new year, It's awesome becouse of the importance for them. In my country there many people from these countries (China, Korea and so on) and they celebrate the Lunar New Year every year as the most important day of the year.

Submitted by Nessrine on Mon, 13/01/2020 - 14:03

First time to hear about « lunar new year » celebration , and it was really nice to know about it , i m amazed by the different traditions in different countries mentioned in the text .. I liked how each year is naming of 12 animals ( i hope if anyone read this comment and see a grammar or any english false , will correct it for me thanks in advance)

Submitted by cadu on Sun, 12/01/2020 - 21:39

I wish that the destiny follow its way. Opportunities for help the people with more necessity. Be graceful, and enjoy all the little things of the life.

Submitted by Maple Bear on Sun, 12/01/2020 - 08:25

To be honest, I don't really like Lunar New Year. Visiting relatives is fine. But in my hometown, we need to commemorate our ancestor who has passed until the end of the New Year holiday. It's really wasting money and food.

Submitted by parisaach on Tue, 24/09/2019 - 06:58

In my country people had some relegious celeberations according lunar years but our official calendar is a solar calendar. In solar calander the first day of spring is the first day of new year.Like everybody else, my family celebrate new year each year. All member of my family trying to be at home before the new year starts. We provide a collection of special things which start with the word 's', all of these things have special meaning, and we name them all together '7sin' and based on traditional Persian custom all families trying to have 7sin before the new year starts. When the TV announce that the new year starts all member of our family kiss eachother and congratulate new year to eachother . We give gifts to each other. My parents usually give money to us. Then we call to older relatives to say new year congratulations and wish them a good year. afew hours later my married sister and brother come to our house to celebrate new year with each other and we all eat fish at the night.
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Submitted by Luobowawa520 on Tue, 12/03/2019 - 12:42

I had my best lunar new year 2019! My husband and I went back to my hometown in China from Greece. I hadn’t been to China for 3years, and was the first time my husband had met my families! We were eating a lot during the long vacation! We played lot of firecrackers in Chinese eve! Such a a wonderful time being with my families. My new year wish is: Hope they can come to Greece visit us soon!
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Submitted by iso on Thu, 07/03/2019 - 06:43

I was born in year of rooster.In new year day I have been pray for my future will be better.unfortunately my pray is not effected for my life.some of my family no longer pray for future.I had encouraged for my friend and family to pray something for future well behave and successful life.Some people confess what they did last year.I had been confess sins,but no longer effect. I learn some topic about Lunar New Year.I'm not interested in this topic ,because New Year is not special day for me ,I think It is just number.
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Submitted by Wang Zijian on Mon, 11/02/2019 - 14:21

We have just had the Lunar New Year of the pig in China. I was born in the year of the monkey. I wish my family and friends a healthy and happy year.

Submitted by teona on Tue, 05/02/2019 - 13:46

please add audio version

Hello teona

Thank you for your comment. We are considering this for the future, but in the meantime please see our Listening skills section for materials to practise your listening skills.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Libya172011 on Sun, 03/02/2019 - 21:24

Hi. How can choose a higher level of reading all every time i choose reading they give me levels B1 and B2 ?
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Submitted by Tailee.See on Fri, 01/02/2019 - 16:10

Next Tuesday 4th, February will be the Chinese Lunar New Year. Every year the Chinese lunar new year will not fall on the same date, this is because it follows the Chinese lunar calendar.

Submitted by LikTo on Fri, 01/02/2019 - 08:54

When celebrate Lunar New Year in 2019? I know it's February, but which numbers?

Submitted by Vanessa2811 on Wed, 30/01/2019 - 04:20

I can't wait to celebrate Lunar New Year in my country. I miss the taste of square rice cake. It's so decious. Although I can buy it in some stores near my house but i think it doesn't fit my taste much. Tet holiday is the day of reunion of family. So I really love eating square rice cake with my family on Tet holiday. I wish lots of happiness, good luck for my family, everybody and peace for the world.

Submitted by eirini on Tue, 29/01/2019 - 13:51

I wish complete happiness for my family,also peace across the world and less poverty.

Submitted by dobisanyi on Mon, 28/01/2019 - 19:25

The article contained a lot of new and interesting information for me.