The Year of the Rabbit has ended and 2024 welcomes the Year of the Dragon for the Lunar New Year. But what does this mean as celebrations begin across Asia and the rest of the world?
The Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival or Chinese New Year, is a big event in Southeastern and Eastern Asian cultures. It’s a two-week celebration between the new and full moons that fall at the end of January and into February.
There’s lots of feasting, fireworks, parties, and parades. In China, people often eat dumplings to mark the occasion. Cleaning is also part of the festival, along with traditions to bring good luck and keep away the bad.
The celebration usually ends on the night of the full moon with a Lantern Festival to guide lost souls home. Each day of the celebration has a special meaning, like remembering the dead or celebrating life.
Every year, a different animal from a list of 12 becomes the mascot for that year. These animals are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. They represent a cycle of 12 stations or “signs” that the Sun passes through as we travel through space, according to History.com. Each animal is also linked to one of five elements – earth, water, fire, wood and metal.
2024 will be the year of the wood dragon. The Year of the Dragon symbolises power, wisdom and good fortune, says History.com.
The official Chinese New Year website describes the dragon as “Dragon is powerful, endlessly energetic and full of vitality, goal-oriented yet idealistic and romantic, and a visionary leader. They know exactly who they are and possess the keenest sense of self among the 12 zodiacs of Chinese astrology,” Previous Years of the Dragon included 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000 and 2012.
Lunar New Year celebrations take place all over the world, including in the U.S., where many vibrant Asian communities live. Many schools celebrate the Lunar New Year by teaching students about the culture behind it and organising fun activities and dances led by their Asian-American peers.