Many of the celebrations for the Lunar New Year are taking place virtually this year, inspired by food, performances and art and craft traditions that take place across Asia. The new year begins on 12 February this year, heralded by the new moon that takes place on 11 February.

The Chinese New Year marks the beginning of a new year on the traditional Chinese calendar, and this year, it ushers in the Year of the Ox. The festival takes place all over China, where the period from 11 to 17 February is a national public holiday. Festivities typically run for two weeks though and the holiday officially ends with the Lantern Festival (February 26). The Lunar New Year is celebrated in many regions and countries that use the lunar calendar or have large Chinese or Chinese-speaking populations. It also is known as the Spring Festival, Tet (Vietnam) and Seollal (Korea).

Chinese New Year decorations on houses
Chinese New Year decorations are important to the celebrations © bevandlee/Budget Travel

The official start of the new lunar calendar welcomes a hopefully more positive new year. For that reason, it is customary in some areas to thoroughly clean houses before the start of the new year - called “sweeping of the grounds" - to remove any bad luck. Houses are usually decorated with red lanterns to ward off bad luck and paper cuttings to encourage good luck and happiness.

While the traditional colorful parades and firework displays won't be taking place in most areas this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are lots of virtual activities to help people celebrate at home. The Asia Society Texas Center will host two weeks of free virtual celebrations, where activities include learning how to make dumplings, making an ox hat, viewing dance and musical performances and watching a traditional lion dance. Another event is a webinar hosted by the Chinese Historical Society, which comprises a cultural and historical discussion on American Chinese restaurants.

Chinese New Year decoration at Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur
Red lanterns are a typical decoration used to ward off bad luck © Takashi Images/Shutterstock

Foodies might wish to tune in to a dumpling class hosted by celebrated chef Anita Lo on virtual cooking lesson platform 100 Pleats on 12 February. Children may enjoy a Chinese Historical Society of America event on 13 February, where a reading of The Year of the Ox: Tales from the Chinese Zodiac will take place by author Oliver Chin. On the same day, the Smithsonian American Art Museum will stream video performances and demonstrations of traditional Chinese crafts and Lunar New Year traditions on 13 February.

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