Tet Nguyen Dan – Vietnam
Because the Chinese brought the Lunar New Year to Vietnam, Tet celebrations also revolve around family and reunions. This means welcoming far-flung relatives and the spirits of deceased ancestors for a dinner of traditional food like banh chung, a rice cake stuffed with beans and pork, and mang, a bamboo shoot soup. They also buy flowering peach trees to fill their homes with life and good fortune.
Seollal - Korea
Korea’s New Year is three days long, beginning the day before the first day of the Korean lunar calendar and ending the day after. Traditionally, families gather from all over Korea at the house of their oldest male relative to pay their respects to both ancestors and elders.
For the highly structured ritual of ancestor reverence known as “charye,” women prepare the food, male relatives serve it to ancestors and both genders consume it. Though the foods prepared for the ceremony vary from region to region, the most common items are rice, soup, meat, seafood, liquor, fruit and vegetables.
Thai New Year (Songkran) - Thailand
Derived from the Sanskrit word meaning to pass and move into, Songkran signals the beginning of a new solar year. The first day of celebration transforms Thailand into a giant water fight. But it is not just fun and games, Thais believe that water washes away bad luck, so throwing it is actually a sign of respect and well-wishing.
On the 14th, also known as Family Day, people spend time at home with their loved ones. Lastly, on the third day of Songkran, Thais visit wats (Buddhist monasteries) to ask for forgiveness and give alms.
Tibetan New Year (Losar Festival) - Tibet
Losar celebrations last three days and are characterized by home-based practices as well as public events featuring chanting, the passing of fire torches through crowds, dancing and music.
On Day 1, among the special foods people in Tibet prepare for the New Year is a soup filled with dumplings. Monasteries conduct special rituals in preparation for Losar celebrations and make a noodle called guthuk made of nine ingredients, including dried cheese and a variety of grains. People also make and hand out dough balls filled with ingredients intended to comment lightheartedly on the recipients’ characters.
Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) - China
According to legend, Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast called “Nian”, a bull and lion-like creature that appeared in China on New Year’s Eve. Learning that the monster feared fire, loud noises, and the color red, the villagers covered their houses in red and lit firecrackers to scare him off.
People still honor the origin story, hanging red lanterns and parading through the streets as dragons and lions. Afterward, they feast on celebratory dishes like longevity noodles, which symbolize a long life, and give children red envelopes (hong bao) stuffed with money to encourage good fortune in the New Year.