Lunar New Year 2021: What to know about the celebration and traditions

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ByMiya Shay via KTRK logo
Monday, February 8, 2021
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Lunar New Year is a time that is full of beautiful and rich traditions. Listen as ABC13's Miya Shay explains the importance of the celebration.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Lunar New Year is a time for renewal, family, fireworks and even food.

The New Year observation, celebrated by 1.5 billion people globally each January or February, is based on the phases of the moon, as opposed to the Roman calendar, which is based on phases of the sun.

Eyewitness News reporter Miya Shay and her family observe Lunar New Year by taking part in a number of time-honored Chinese traditions, from making meals together to giving lucky red envelopes.

Folding and cooking dumplings from scratch can be a lot of work, but represent wealth and prosperity to each family. Miya says they're also pretty delicious! Chinese families also eat fish during Lunar New Year.

But the most significant of Lunar New Year traditions centers on fancy red envelopes.

The red envelope has origins reaching back to the Qin dynasty, from 221 to 207 BC.

Known as hongbao in Mandarin and lai see in Cantonese, giving red envelopes filled with money during Lunar New Year is a gesture of good luck and wishes for a safe and peaceful year.

In China, the color red symbolizes energy, happiness and luck. Wrapping lucky money in red envelopes is expected to bring joy and blessings to those who receive them.

Miya said children can only get red envelopes by respecting their elders. If they are good and lucky enough, grandma or grandpa will hand their grandchildren envelopes with money inside.

The amount of money given has increased across generations, Miya said.

Lunar New Year 2020: Swipe through this photo gallery from last year's celebration at the Chinese Community Center, prior to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

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The lion dances are also very important, especially at banks. Performers dressed in elaborate lion costumes dance, chasing away bad deities.

In return for their dance, audience members often place red envelopes with a few dollars inside into the mouths of the lions to thank them for scaring away misfortune in the new year.

Miya said she and her family look forward to being able to gather again for Lunar New Year festivities, but will celebrate virtually in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are honored to share Miya's lesson on Lunar New Year with you, presented as part of a project by our ABC13 employees' diversity and inclusion committee, Belong.

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