Chinese New Year will be marked on February 10, 2024 (Credit: Freepik/ CC-BY-SA-2.0)

On February 10, 2024, over two billion people worldwide will celebrate the first day of the Chinese New Year. Also called Lunar or Spring New Year, it is one of China's most important holidays.

Millions of city residents use the mandatory seven-day break to visit family and friends, triggering the world's largest seasonal human migration. The spring travel rush, or Chunyun, starts 15 days before the Chinese New Year and ends about 25 days after.

This year, the festivities will begin on February 9 with a "Reunion Dinner." The annual event where family members reaffirm their love and respect for each other is considered the year's most important meal. The menu is steeped in Chinese tradition. A whole chicken symbolizes family togetherness, while long, uncut noodles signify long life. Dumplings and spring rolls, which resemble gold bars, represent wealth and prosperity. The rest of the food varies. But there are usually eight or nine dishes. In Chinese culture, eight is associated with wealth and fortune, while nine represents longevity and good luck.

The Chinese New Year ends with a Lantern Festival (Credit: North Sea Dreamer/ CC-BY-SA 3.0/ Wikimedia Commons)

The New Year celebrations will end on February 24, 2024, with the Lantern Festival. Observers hang red lanterns in homes and temples and pray for good fortune in the upcoming year. The evening is marked with parades, the highlight of which is a dragon dance. It involves strategically placed poles that manipulate a colorful silk and paper dragon.

All Chinese years are identified by one of twelve animals. Legend has it that Lord Buddha invited all animals to celebrate the New Year with him. He honored the twelve that came by naming a year after them. The animals are believed to shape the character and fate of individuals born in that year.

Each Chinese New Year is marked by one of twelve animals (Credit: Chinahighlights.com/ CC-BY-SA-2.0)

The year marks the "Year of the Dragon." A symbol of strength, power, wealth, and wisdom, the dragon is considered one of the luckiest animals in the Chinese Zodiac. The sign includes those born in 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, and 2012! "Dragon" people are generous, hard-working, adventurous, and imaginative. They are also naturally lucky and gifted.

Lunar New Year is also observed in neighboring Asian countries like Thailand and Singapore. In Vietnam, the New Year is called TŠļŅt. While the traditions are similar, the celebrations last just seven days.

Xin Nian Kuai Le! (Happy New Year)

Resources: Wikipedia.org, Chinahightlights.com, History.com