Celebrations are on for the Chinese New Year. Friday the 12th of February 2021 marks the beginning of the Year of the Ox in the Chinese zodiac. Credit: AP Photo/Kin Cheung

Millions of people all over the world are celebrating Lunar New Year today. The holiday is also known as the Chinese New Year, the Spring Festival, Tet (which means ‘holiday’ in Chinese), and Seollal (in Korean, the word used for ‘Korean New Year’).

When is the Lunar New Year?

The Lunar New Year marks the first day in the lunar calendar, which begins a day after the first new moon appears, between 21 January and 20 February. This year, the date falls on Friday, 12 February. The celebrations usually start one day early (11 February) and continue until the fifteenth day (26 February), when the lantern festivals usually take place.

Where is the Lunar New Year celebrated?

The celebrations occur all over China, as well as other countries that use the lunar calendar. These include Malaysia, Vietnam, Korea, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore and the Philippines, along with Chinese communities all over the globe.

What is the Lunar New Year animal for 2021?

Each year is marked by one of the 12 animals that make up the Chinese zodiac. 2021 is the year of the Ox, which symbolises strength and determination.

How is it celebrated?

In a normal year, the celebrations would include parades, traditional costumes, decorative dragons and lions, and fireworks, which are believed to ward off evil spirits.

However, social distancing restrictions and travel regulations mean this year is extremely different.

Families who celebrate the Lunar New Year usually clean their house the day prior, in order to sweep away any bad luck. They also decorate their windows with red paper and Chinese lanterns. Red is an important colour, due to tradition that associates it with driving away evil. For this reason, presents are wrapped in red paper and money is given in red envelopes.

How is it different this year?

This year, the London Chinatown Chinese Association (LCCA) is encouraging people to follow lockdown rules and stay home, as reported by the BBC.

The association has also created a virtual celebration, which will be streamed on their Youtube channel on 14 February.

Although Chinatowns across the globe will seem quiet this year, online events will provide some comfort for those separated from their families.

What is the traditional Lunar New Year food?

Communal hotpot is one of the foods included in most big dinners, as it is thought to symbolise the reunion of family around the table. Expensive or rare meats and seafood are also popular around the holiday.

Other traditional foods in mainland China include spring rolls, dumplings, noodle soups, and sweet rice balls (tangyuan, in Chinese) for dessert.

London is usually home to one of the biggest Lunar New Year celebrations outside of China, full of crowds, food stalls and decorations.