Celebrating Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year's Day is celebrated every year on the first day of the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar, typically occurring between January 21 and February 20. This year, it falls on January 22. It is one of China's most — if not the most — essential holidays. It is also commonly referred to as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival and celebrated by many other East Asian and Southeast Asian cultures. 

In the past, Lunar New Year was a particular time to honor deities and ancestors. People have a variety of traditions during present-day celebrations that could last for 15 days—for instance, thoroughly cleaning a home out. This cleaning symbolizes chasing out bad luck and ushering good fortune into the year. Families gather and enjoy memorable meals. Young ones are given money in red envelopes. On the final day, the 'Lantern Festival' takes place. During the festival, glowing lanterns are hung in temples or carried around. Parades and ceremonial dances take over the streets. 

At Valley, many of our families are Asian, as well as the vast majority of our international students. We live in a region of the country with a large percentage of Asian people and in a state where 14% of the population is Asian.  

Our Valley Christian Schools community, inside and outside our campuses, is rich in cultural traditions. We have people representing many nations, which gives us an excellent opportunity to be enriched by our diverse community and share the gospel message with “...every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9). 

In celebration of the Lunar New Year, we respect this tradition of East Asia and Southeast Asia and simultaneously fulfill the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (see Matthew 28:19) without leaving San Jose! 

Discussions with a few East Asian faculty and staff at Valley Christian revealed a variety of Lunar New Year traditions from their personal experiences or classroom activities that Christians can share with students. 

"The red envelope is something that my kids have celebrated ever since they were young, mostly because I have a cousin who always got us together for Chinese dinner to celebrate! We joked in our house that the only way we knew Chinese New Year was coming was when our cousin called us for dinner. I fondly remember the red envelope is a very well-known and happy tradition to those who know about it" (VCS staff). 

"During my first year of teaching at VCS, I recognized that I had several international students from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. I knew they must be missing family and home during Chinese New Year. I distributed red envelopes to all my other students, filled with a couple of chocolate coins. I explained to them that this was a custom practiced in Asia when celebrating Lunar New Year. ALL students appreciated my gesture, even if this was not part of their culture. The Asian students were most appreciative, especially the international students who were away from home" (VCS high school teacher). 

Why would Valley consider the Lunar New Year celebration relevant? 

It's a celebration of culture. 

Lunar New Year is a unique celebration of Chinese and East Asian culture and traditions. Every country has its symbols that promote a healthy sense of cultural pride and a sense of belonging. Valley Christian supports cultural diversity and belonging among its diverse communities. 

It brings families together. 

During Lunar New Year, people visit their families at home gatherings, which allows for bonding, especially for those who live apart from their loved ones. These observances give them a wonderful chance to reunite and celebrate as one. Christian fellowship centers around people gathering as family and friend units to celebrate the love of Christ for everyone. 

It ushers in a fresh start. 

A new year is a time to re-energize and re-strategize. Lunar New Year's Day is a fresh start and symbolizes ushering in new blessings and good fortune. While Christians would not believe in "good fortune" per se, the idea of blessings is God's idea for us to receive from him freely and to share with others freely. 

The passing on of traditions is biblical and cultural as a means for remembering our past, honoring our present, and sharing hope for the future. Our Christian culture is unique because we are ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse people centered around the salvation offered by Jesus Christ. When Christians engage in cultural celebrations, we can share our faith traditions and ultimate life-giving truth with those who may not know about our Christian faith. We can connect cultural tradition with the biblical truth. 

The Valley Christian Schools leadership recognizes that some in our community, including Christian East Asians, choose not to celebrate Lunar New Year for reasons based on biblical perspectives, personal convictions, unfamiliarity, or cultural and ethnic differences. In Romans 14, the Apostle Paul gives Christians leeway in choosing which cultural traditions to follow, "One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord” (Romans 14:5-6). 

Is celebrating Lunar New Year right for you? 

Here are some Christian principles to help you decide: 

1. Did the Bible forbid these practices? (1 Corinthians 8:4-6; Romans 14:14-22) 

2. Will it cause other Christians to stumble? (1 Corinthians 8:7-13; Romans 14:13) 

3. Is it a good witness for Christ? 

4. Will it offend other members of your family or community? 

If you choose to learn more about the celebration of the Lunar New Year, check out these resources and opportunities: 

  1. Do Something at Valley 

  1. Wish someone a happy new year with God's blessings! A new year has just begun on the other side of the globe. Whatever corner of the world you live in, wish all Chinese people a happy new year by posting a kind, biblical message on social media! 

  1. Attend an event or activity sponsored by Valley Christian High School students:  

  1. Lunar New Year Celebration, Friday, February 3, 7pm in the Main Gym.  

  1. Also, look out for on-campus celebrations throughout January led by student groups in high school and junior high. 

  1. Learn more about China 

  1. Do more research about China, the source of the lunar new year tradition, and eliminate any misconceptions about the country or the holiday itself. Remember, knowledge is power! 

  1. Attend a Lunar New Year Festival  
    Celebrate the Lunar New Year at San Jose History Park, January 20-22, where festivities will include lion dancing, martial arts, karaoke, calligraphy, games, face painting, photo booths, a flower market and food and drink vendors. Free admission. 

Whatever you might choose to do regarding celebrations during the Lunar New Year, please consider praying that God’s abundant blessings will flow through Jesus to our Asian friends and their families. 

PRAYER 

Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you that the New Year means a chance for a fresh start and a new beginning in all cultures. We pray especially for our Chinese, East Asian, and Southeast Asian brothers and sisters as they celebrate Lunar New Year that they will deepen their knowledge of You. Thank you for putting the hunger for better times ahead and the Lord’s hope for a renewal of goodness and health into every heart to motivate us to find Jesus, our Redeemer and friend. Thank you that Jesus died on the cross to sweep clean our sins and make it possible for us to have new life in a relationship with Him that brings prosperity to our souls. Amen. 

ORIGINS of LUNAR NEW YEAR 

Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year origins go back to the period between 475 B.C. and 221 A.D., known as "the Warring States period." Several myths and legends about the origins of this holiday exist. A popular myth narrates the story of a monster called 'Nian,' meaning 'Year,' who terrorized villagers at the beginning of each new year. According to the story, the monster also happened to be afraid of bright lights, loud sounds, and the color red. The villagers then used all these to frighten away the monster. 

The cultural groups celebrating Lunar New Year include many East Asians from China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, or Mongolia, and Southeast Asians from countries south of China but east of India. These countries include Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Laos, Indonesia, Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, and Timor-Leste. 

For More Information 

Look for monthly cultural and heritage celebration updates on the Valley Christian Schools Biblical Unity website (https://vcs.net/biblicalunity) or contact Dr. Steven J. McGriff, Director of Biblical Unity [smcgriff@vcs.net].