While most countries use the solar calendar, some follow the lunar calendar, which is based around the cycles of the moon, or the lunisolar calendar, which reflects both the moon phase and solar year. With the lunar New Year coming up on January 25th comes the Year of the Rat - the very first animal in the 12-animal zodiac, just in time for the new decade! Check out some of the countries that will recognize the New Year this weekend and how they will celebrate.
Of course, we have to start with China - as one of the biggest countries that celebrates the lunar New Year, it's now become colloquial to refer to it as the Chinese New Year! It is, without question, the largest and most important holiday in China. All of the stops are pulled out for what is also known as the "Spring Festival". Musical parades, lion and dragon dances, exchanging "lucky money" in red envelopes, and and dazzling lantern displays are all popular traditions to welcome in the New Year.
We recommend: 7 Day Beijing and Shanghai
Despite the Muslim-majority population, the lunar New Year is still a significant holiday in Indonesia. Although the country is a veritable kaleidoscope of cultures, religions, and customs, the significance of the family unit remains particularly strong. On New Year's Eve, many Chinese families will meet in a central location. They will wait until every single member of the family is present, at which point everyone settles down to enjoy a traditional meal of both Chinese and Indonesian specialties.
We recommend: 7 Day Bali Panorama
Malaysia's unofficial slogan is "Malaysia, Truly Asia" - because it's truly a melting pot of Asian cultures! From Muslim to Hindu, indigenous to aboriginal, its people are as varied as its islands. The concept of "open house" is accordingly more widely practiced in Malaysia than other countries on the New Year. As the name suggests, homes are open for friends and family to visit regardless of race or religion. But it doesn't matter whether you're a local or even a foreign visitor; this is a time to eat, drink, and be with friends and family.
We recommend: 10 Day Jewels of Malaysia
With a Chinese population of over 7 million, the lunar New Year is a massive holiday in Thailand with a strong Chinese influence. Like with their Northern neighbors, the color red is particularly lucky, symbolizing the story of Nien. As legend has it, a fearsome beast named Nien used to terrorize villages of New Year's Eve; when he saw red-colored clothing and decorations, he became scared and fled, and red has been lucky ever since! It's common to see families giving children red envelopes with "lucky" money, wearing red, and putting up red decor.
We recommend: 8 Day Jewels of Thailand
While there is a Chinese community in Myanmar, it is rather small, and there haven't been celebrations of the Spring Festival on a grand scale more than a couple of times in the last few decades. However, the regional government has increasingly begun to officially support the celebrations, and this year's Festival will be held once again in the Chinatown province of Yangon, Myanmar's largest city and former capital. In addition to a plethora of Chinese dishes and drinks, it will feature a lantern festival, live entertainment, and a night market!
We recommend: 7 Day Jewels of Myanmar
Tet Nguyen Dan or Tet, as the lunisolar New Year is known in Vietnam, translates to "Feast of the very First Morning". It is celebrated over the course of a few days, divided into before the New Year, New Year's Eve, and the days of and after New Year. In the days leading up to it, each family carries out extensive meal preparations of special holiday foods. Family members often take turns watching the fire overnight while exchanging Tet stories. And with the generous hospitality that is ingrained in many Asian cultures, Vietnamese also often keep candied fruits around the house in decorative boxes as a snack for guests!
We recommend: 9 Day Jewels of Vietnam