Valentine’s Day isn’t the only holiday coming up this month… no, not by a long shot. While a great many of us toasted to the new year on January 1st, a very large portion of the world will be celebrating the Lunar New Year — also known as the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival — on February 19th, though the observances typically last much longer. While it’s celebrated in communities the world over, the Lunar New Year is mainly observed in countries that follow the lunisolar calendar, such as Mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia (to name but a few). A lunisolar calendar is one that indicates both the moon phase and the time of the solar year, which means that, unlike the western calendar which always renews on January 1st, the dates of the lunar new year are flexible, usually falling sometime between January 21st and February 20th. It’s a time of grand celebration, vibrant colors, incredible food and the warmth of family and friends.
Like any major holiday, celebrations and traditions vary from country to country, region to region, and family to family, but a very common sight with any Lunar New Year festivity is the emergence of red and gold in decorations, outfits, and primarily in Chinese culture, the red and gold envelopes that are traditionally given as gifts. If you live in a major city or in a country that observes this meaningful occasion, you’ve likely spotted these auspicious colors gracing streets and shop windows, glittering in doorways and adorning passers-by, possibly even coupled with this year’s Chinese zodiac animal: the Sheep (or Goat, as it varies).
Occurring in a 12 year cycle, the Sheep/Goat is 8th out of the 12 animals that are used to define different years on the Chinese zodiac. If you were born in any of these years: 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, then you’re a sheep… and that’s a wonderful thing! People born during years of the Sheep are thought to be calm, gentle, creative, kindhearted and persevering. Your lucky colors are brown, red and purple, and you’ll find luck in numbers containing 2 and 7.
With the Lunar New Year quickly approaching and festivities in full swing, a couple of our home office gals were kind enough to share their own personal New Year traditions and memories with us. Scroll through to meet Clara and Jenny below and see how we’re all styling red and gold in honor of 2015, the year of the sheep:
“Growing up, the Chinese New Year has always really just been about spending time together as family. We almost always end up traveling to an aunt’s place in Singapore or grandparent’s in Taipei. Depending on where we go, the food and traditions are different but it’s always about gathering around a table (preferably round) and eating that one special Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner together, usually fish since it means “well” or “abundance” in Chinese traditions. Then we’ll all gather around the living room and wait for midnight to come around. It’s not really about counting down, but more that you’re gathered together until the new year officially arrives and all is well and new.”
“I love the folktale that the word ‘year’ is actually a sort of monster that people made up and that you’re supposed to wear red, be together, and stay up till midnight so that you can protect yourself from the ‘Year’. I don’t celebrate it as much anymore now that I’ve left home, but staying up till midnight is definitely a tradition I’ve held on to.”
“My family usually does a thorough cleaning of our house before the new year, to wash away the dirt, which symbolizes bad luck. We then decorate our house with red and gold paper cutouts of Chinese auspicious phrases such as “新春快乐” (happy spring festival!), “心想事成” (may all your wishes come true!), and “五福临门” (may luck come knocking at your door).”
“On New Year’s Eve all our family members gather together for a big dinner of traditional food, such as dumplings, rice cakes, hot pot and spring rolls. After dinner, we sit down together to watch the national New Year’s Gala on TV, or play Mahjong (a traditional Chinese game) while we wait to do the countdown at midnight. Then, senior members of my family will give the red envelopes (usually containing cash) to the children, which represents luck and blessings.”
As a special offer for our Chinese customers, we’re tucking red envelopes with a special surprise inside into China-bound packages! If you’re shopping from China or have loved ones who are, be sure to shop our Free People CN site to receive an envelope + free shipping on orders over 800RMB for a limited time!
Whether you’re one of the many celebrating the lunar new year, or simply a fan of the hues, find more perfect red and gold pieces here!
+ Do you celebrate the Lunar New Year? We’d love to learn more about your traditions! Please share in the comments.