Although sometimes called Chinese New Year in the United States, Lunar New Year is observed across Asia, including in Singapore, Vietnam, Korea, Tibet, and other countries. This holiday, honoring a new year based on the annual cycles of the moon, has different names across the globe, including Chunjie (China), Tet (Vietnam), Seollal (South Korea), and Losar (Tibet), among others.
It begins on the first new moon of the year and ends on the first full moon, 15 days later. Lunar New Year usually arrives between January 21 and February 20 on the Gregorian calendar, depending on a year’s moon cycles. In 2022, it will begin February 1.
According to Chinese legend, Nian (a half-bull with a lion head) ravages crops, livestock, and even eats children. However, Nian (meaning year) is deterred by red, loud noises, and fire, and is defeated with these symbols. Following the tradition in China of celebrating Nian’s downfall and the luck of the symbols to defeat it, Lunar New Year is most often marked with red decorations, paper lanterns, and firecrackers.
How is Lunar New Year Observed?
Parties, parades, and feasts are essential to celebrating Lunar New Year globally. Preparations for the festival begin days before the first new moon arrives. Homes are cleaned to remove bad luck, people travel to be close to friends and family, and special foods are cooked to mark the new year. Some dishes might include bitter melon (Vietnam), Guthuk (Tibetan soup), Tangyuan (Chinese sweet rice balls), and Yaksik (Korean sweet rice). In some countries, money is exchanged in red paper envelopes among family and friends, especially for children, for further good luck.
Lunar New Year is more than a one-day new-moon celebration, and its festivities continue for 15 days. In China, for example, the fifteenth day is known as the Lantern Festival, with lanterns hung along streets and outside homes.
It’s common for employees in China, Singapore, and other countries where Lunar New Year is observed to have a week or two off from work during the holiday. Large offices and companies will even close completely during this time to observe the beginning of a new year.
How Can You Respect and Acknowledge Lunar New Year in the Workplace?
As Lunar New Year is celebrated across Asia, one way to ensure respect is to avoid classifying the holiday as specific to one country. If you have employees in countries where it is common to close offices or take vacations during Lunar New Year, giving people this time away is a sign of respect and acknowledgment of their culture and traditions.
To be inclusive when wishing employees well during this holiday on social media or as part of your internal or external communications, you can say “Happy Lunar New Year” instead of saying, for example, “Happy Chinese New Year.”
And, if you’d like to host a celebration in your office, you can invite employees to share customs, foods, and legends that are unique to their cultures around Lunar New Year and during the fifteen days when it is observed.