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.

Instructions

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?

Discussion

Download
Worksheet87.77 KB

Language level

Do you need to improve your English?
Whether you need better English to travel or meet new people, our online English courses will give you real practice. Join thousands of learners from around the world who are making great progress with their English level with our online courses.
Average: 4.2 (6 votes)
Profile picture for user risen47

Submitted by risen47 on Sun, 29/01/2023 - 21:44

Permalink

i wish in this year we have a lot of development for human

Submitted by Kurana16 on Sun, 22/01/2023 - 11:55

Permalink

Lunar New Year traditions seem to have a lot of sacral meaning. I'd love to visit one of these countries some time.
I remember in my childhood we would always dress up according to new year's symbol. Not only this, but also we choose tablecloth, napkins, decorations in the colour theme this symbols prefers. Apart from this, we would make a menu out of dishes they like. For example, there should be a lot of lettuce on the table for rabbit.

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

Permalink

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

Permalink

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

Permalink
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.
Profile picture for user danisep

Submitted by danisep on Thu, 04/02/2021 - 19:05

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

Permalink
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

Permalink
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

Permalink
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)