Sunday, April 14, 2024

New Jersey Welcomes Lunar New Year

The 2024 Lunar New Year is underway and is being officially acknowledged for the first time in New Jersey. Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill headed by state Assemblywoman Ellen Park on January 12 designating the first new moon of the first month of the lunar calendar as Lunar New Year in New Jersey.

“Officially recognizing Lunar New Year as a state is more than just celebrating a holiday, it’s embracing a culture and it tells our Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) neighbors that they are not only accepted, but welcomed and celebrated,” said Assemblywoman Park. “The AAPI community is the fastest growing population in the state and a law like this, while seemingly small, is an acknowledgment of their contribution to the fabric of our society. This is the America we should always fight to be and I am so grateful to see this bill become law.”

2024 is the Year of the Dragon and festivities began on February 10 and will end on February 24. Credit Adobe Stock.

“I feel so proud that New Jersey is one of the first states to officially recognize Lunar New Year and I am honored to have advocated for this bill,” said Ziran Yuan, student advocate and founder of NJ Lunar New Year Project.

“Through these past 12 months, I have met wonderful people I would never have known: Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese-Americans, and more,” said Yuan. “But beyond our community, what has surprised me is the kindness of people who might have never celebrated Lunar New Year. Before this bill has even become law, it is already bringing us closer together. It has shown me that New Jerseyans care for each other, and are willing to help each other. And that’s the significance of this bill. It ties us together and shows us that we are a family.”

The Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, is a significant cultural and traditional holiday celebrated by many East Asian communities around the world. It marks the beginning of the lunar calendar, which is based on the cycles of the moon. The exact date varies each year because it is based on the lunar calendar, but it typically falls between late January and mid-February. 

In the weeks leading up to the Lunar New Year, families begin preparations by cleaning their homes to sweep away any bad luck from the previous year and make way for good luck in the new year. People also decorate their houses with symbols of prosperity and good fortune, such as red lanterns, decorations with auspicious phrases, and images of the zodiac animal associated with the upcoming year.

Food also plays a central role in celebrations. Families prepare and share traditional dishes to bring luck, wealth, and happiness for the coming year. Some common foods include dumplings, fish, noodles, and sweet treats.

Red Packets, known as ang pao/hong bao (red envelopes containing money) are given to younger family members, children and unmarried adults as a symbol of good luck and prosperity.

The Lunar New Year would not be complete without fireworks and dragon dances. Fireworks are believed to scare away evil spirits and dragon dances are performed to bring good luck and prosperity.

Dancers from AAPI New Jersey perform for the Lunar New Year. Photo credit, New Jersey Office of the Attorney General.

Overall, the Lunar New Year is a time for reflection, renewal and celebration of culture and tradition for millions of people around the world. It’s a time to cherish family, honor ancestors and look forward to the opportunities and challenges of the year ahead. Happy New Year!

Do you know your Chinese zodiac sign? Credit Adobe Stock.
Cybele Tamulonis
Cybele Tamulonis, Contributing Writer

Cybele is a writer and editor with more than 16 years in the publishing industry. An avid reader, you can usually find her with the latest new book release from the local library. She currently resides on a farm in Hardwick with her husband and four children. In her spare time, she writes historical fiction specific to New Jersey.