Leap into Lunar New Year


By Neesa Vang

Year of the Rat/ The Chinese Zodiac Sign for year 2020 is the Rat. In the Bellagio Hotel, there is an exhibit showing some key features of the Lunar New Year. Photo by Neesa Vang

This year, Lunar New Year’s Day falls on Saturday, Jan. 25. The Lunar calendar consists of complete cycles of the moon revolving around the Earth. The holiday date varies year to year. The New Year festivities starts on the first day of the Lunar month and ends on the first full moon of the year. Traditional people celebrate the New Year for a total of 15 days, and this year it’s from Jan. 25- Feb. 8.

“Being raised in a traditional Chinese American household taught me a lot about my culture,” sophomore Leo Chen said. “These next few weeks are an important time to celebrate with my family.”

Chinese Zodiac Signs are a special part of many Asian cultures. There are 12 Zodiac animals, including the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. The Zodiac switches each year, and 2020 is the year of the Rat. Every person born this year has a Rat as their zodiac sign. Each animal has meanings, fortunes and traits behind them that could explain someone’s personality, character trait and relations to others. For example, if one is a Rat they are known to be clever, successful, a quick thinker and like to live a quiet and peaceful life. Rats are also compatible with Ox, Dragon and Monkey but least compatible with Horse, Goat and Rabbit.

“My mother tells me stories about the Zodiacs and history of them,” freshman Linh Vang said. “I was born in 2005, the year of the Rooster.” 

People who follow the Lunar calendar consider the New Year an important time. Traditionally, to start off this eventful time period, families eat dinner on New Year’s Eve. This year, New Year’s Eve is Friday, Jan. 24. Families and friends gather at midnight on New Year’s Day to watch big firecracker shows and conclude the 15 days with a lantern festival. The fireworks are intended to scare off evil spirits while the lanterns are awaiting good luck. Dragon dances are the main entertainment during this time and symbolize wisdom, power and wealth. Many people can be seen wearing the color red, as it represents strength and prosperity. In Las Vegas, people can find Lunar New Year influences in many tourist spots, and dragon dancing even takes place at The Cosmopolitan. 

“My favorite thing to eat during the Lunar New Year is moon cakes,” sophomore Nathan Ly said. “Firecrackers are something me and my family look forward to watching each year.”

A new year calls for a fresh beginning. Traditional outfits will be bought and worn for the start of the year. Many families start to clean their house with hopes of letting go of bad spirits and letting in the cleansed energy. Traditionally, New Years Eve and New Years Day are reserved for family celebrations including religious ceremonies that honor ancestors. Younger family members also receive red envelopes containing small amounts of money as a good luck gift. Many tasty traditional foods are cooked and enjoyed with the family. 

In each household, families have their own traditions, beliefs, culture and the way they celebrate the New Year. Anyone can celebrate the Lunar New Year and learn more about Asian culture, even if it’s not their own.