Red background, with a cartoon red temple, lanterns, candles fruits and flowers

What Lunar New Year Means to Me as a Second-Generationer

Every family is different, and as a second-generation Chinese-Canadian some of my traditions may seem untraditional.

Some Background

What is Lunar New Year?

Lunar New Year marks the beginning of a lunar calendar year and is celebrated by many East Asian and South Asian cultures. It typically lasts 15 days and falls on a different date every year, ranging from January 21st to February 20th. This year it falls on January 22nd 2023.

Zodiac Animals

Each year is associated with one of twelve zodiac animals — 2023 being the year of the Rabbit. Similar to the astrology zodiac signs, each animal has different characteristics. Find out what yours means here!

Animals of the Chinese Zodiac around a circle, with the corresponding birth years in each section.
My zodiac animal's a snake, what's yours?
Credit: Reader's Digest

How I Celebrate

Common traditions of Lunar New Year include burning incense to worship ancestors, hanging red paper lanterns, and watching fireworks and lion dances. There are many superstitions such as not showering or washing clothes because it “washes away” good luck.

Just like other major holidays, I visit and spend time with family, hoping I’m not too old to receive red envelopes! These red envelopes are traditionally filled with money and are exchanged during Lunar New Year to symbolize good luck and best wishes for the new year.

A hand holding two red envelopes with Chinese calligraphy.
Credit: Pexels

My family would eat a meal at a local Chinese restaurant, or even sometimes Mandarin. This year, I’m planning on having a simple celebration and making homemade dumplings from scratch.

Sometimes I struggle with connecting to my Chinese side, considering I never learned how to speak Mandarin or ever stepped foot in Macau, the city my family was from. I learned more about Lunar New Year from a student tutor in Beijing than from my own experiences!

Every family is different, and as a second-generation Chinese-Canadian, some of my traditions may seem untraditional. To me, Lunar New Year is one time of the year I get to celebrate my heritage and identity. I like to take some time to reflect on my grandparents and parents immigrating to Canada to allow me to be where I am today. I think about what it means to be an Asian woman in society. Traditions don't have to be traditional — they can be personal and that's okay.

No matter how you choose to celebrate and even if you don't, I hope you were able to learn something new about the holiday. Happy Lunar New Year!

Events and Things to Do to Celebrate Lunar New Year

Bowls of Asian dishes on a circular table. [TEXT: Southeast Asian Students Celebrate Lunar New Year]

Jan 26th 4:30 - 6:00pm: Southeast Asian Students Lunar New Year Celebration (virtual)

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