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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.

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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?



Language level

Upper intermediate: B2


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!

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.

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.

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

Hi. How can choose a higher level of reading all every time i choose reading they give me levels B1 and B2 ?

Hello Libya172011,

If you want to find material of a certain level then you can use our search facility below the test on this page:

C1 would be the level above B2.



The LearnEnglish Team

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.

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

Hello LikTo

This year I believe it is February 5, 6 and 7.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team