How to prepare for Lunar New Year: A Millennial’s Guide

Not exactly nailing your 2022 new year resolutions? Don’t worry, there’s another chance to start  over.

Whether it’s family members hustling about in preparation or the sound of drums and fireworks piercing through the air, it’s hard to miss Lunar New Year — one of the largest annual Asian observances.

Also called Spring Festival, this 15-day celebration takes over our homes, malls, inboxes (and hearts!) in the most lively and nostalgic ways.

While many cultures across Asia have unique new year traditions, folktales, and rituals, here are just some of the ways—or at least ways recommended by Grandma Nguyen, with a few millennial modifications—to usher in the Year of the Tiger:

FORTUNE

How to make sure you’re ready to receive all the good luck headed your way. Cha-ching!

Leading up to New Year’s Eve

  • Cut your hair and tidy up (physically and digitally). Get a new do ahead of time, it’s bad luck to get one later. Clean up your physical space to make room for good energy. Digital cleanses also help, rid your mental self from angsty posts and content.
  • Settle your debts, then kiss and make up. Grandma says however you start your new year is how you’ll end up spending it, so try to pay off any pending debts and call it a truce with your mother-in-law (or anyone you’re feuding with).
  • Decorate. Red and gold couplets, cut outs, lanterns, or new budding plants. Get these symbols of good fortune up around the house, and you’ll thank me later.

On New Year’s Day

  • Don’t shower, but wear new clothes. Showering will wash away all your good luck! Don a new wardrobe as it symbolizes a fresh start to the new year.
  • Bring on the lai see. It doesn’t matter how much is in the actual red envelope (now that I’m newly married and an auntie to many, that’s the story I’m sticking with), just make sure the amount of cash is an even number without a 4 in the mix.

FOOD

Grab the steamer and dust off the china, we’re celebrating.

  • Send noods. Long noodles equals long life. Simple as that.
  • The snack tray at grandma’s. Called the Tray of Togetherness — which features many different yummy and not-so-yummy treats (seeds, nuts, fruit, candy and more) — it symbolizes your family’s hopes for the new year which can include longevity, prosperity, and whatever grandma (or T&T) decides on.
  • Steamed fish and chicken, in whole. These auspicious dishes are a promise of prosperity, so make sure to  keep the whole animal intact when serving.
  • Fruits. Mandarins, pomelos, and tangerines — these round golden fruits represent fullness and wealth. They are often either gifted, put on display, or offered to the ancestors.
  • Dumplings. They looks like gold ingots and will help bring (you guessed it) more wealth throughout the year.
  • Tangyuan. Because it’s amazing.

FAMILY

Come home to mama — at the heart of it all is family.

  • Show your ancestors some love. It’s important that we pay our respects to our ancestors. Be sure to tidy the altar, prepare offering for them, pray for them to rest in peace, and maybe even include a wish or two for yourself.
  • The dinner of all dinners. Some of us have one big dinner to attend; some of us have several. Despite the potential for family drama, this just might be the most important dinner of the year. It’s a time of reunion, for the family to celebrate and eat together as an unbroken whole. Make the effort to drive over to the parent’s this Lunar New Year because, let’s be honest, you’re their pride and joy (and you’ll hear about it for the rest of the year if you don’t!).

From our family to yours, Happy Lunar New Year!

*This article was originally published in 2019 and was most recently updated in 2022.

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