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Happy Lunar New Year!

Updated: Feb 4, 2023

新年快乐 (Xīn nián kuài lè)! 새해 복 많이 받으십시오 (Saehae Bok Mani Badeusipsio)! Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!

Those are just some of the few ways you can greet someone in the new year. Sunday, January 22nd, 2023, marks the beginning of the Lunar New Year.

There are many different traditions to this holiday. Some of them are shared between cultures. For example, in China, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam, elders would hand to children red envelopes filled with money.

Pictured: a vendor selling red envelops of many different designs.

However, each country has adapted its own traditions as well. For example, in Vietnam, the head of the house (usually the husband) would stand outside a few minutes to midnight. They would then go into the house right after midnight. This is because the Vietnamese believed that the first person who enters the house dictates the luck of the household for the rest of the year. If someone you don't like enters your home, then that will be bad luck for the family. By having the head of the house enter the home right after midnight, then by default the luck for the household will be good and you can avoid the bad luck.

Speaking of the Vietnamese, did you know that this year, it is the year of the cat for them? In the Vietnamese zodiac, the cat takes the place of the rabbit, so the traits that are often associated with the rabbit are attributed to our feline friend instead. There are various explanations on why it is this way. The most common one is that in the ordering system (Earthly branches) that is used for lunar year, the word for used for the rabbit zodiac 卯 (Mão ~ Mẹo) sounds like the Vietnamese word for "cat" (mèo).

Another legend as to why there is no cat in the Chinese zodiac is that during the "Great Race" where the animals tried to head to the Jade Emperor's party, both the Cat and the Rat had tricked the naïve Ox into letting them ride on its back to cross the river. However the Rat pushed the Cat into the river, jumped off the Ox's back, and raced to the palace and became the first zodiac. As such, the Cat never made it to the palace and never became a Chinese zodiac. People believed that it was because of this story that cats always hunt mice.

Regardless if you are at cat or a rabbit, those born in 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, 1951 and 1939 will have a lucky year!

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