Why red is so important during Lunar New Year

More than 150 countries around the world celebrate Lunar New Year. The start of each year is based on the movement of the moon, according to Nancy Yao Maasbach, the president of the Museum of Chinese in America.

"Some people may wonder why does the lunar new year not start on January 1st," Maasbach said. "That's because the first day of the lunar calendar changes every year because the year is truncated every 28 days within the moon's cycle."

Comparable to western zodiac signs, each year is represented by a certain animal. 2019 is the year of the pig.

"The pig is supposed to be caring, unique, very self-sacrifice," Maasbach said. "But there are negative characteristics as well. The pig is sometimes known to be a bit pessimistic, a bit worrisome."

While it's still officially winter, the Lunar New Year is also known as the spring festival, celebrating a season of planting and harvests, new beginnings and fresh starts. Elaborate celebrations take place with numerous lion dances.

"It's a very traditional southern Chinese Cantonese dance," Maasbach said. "It is supposed to ward off devil spirits and to really welcome a new and prosperous and healthy year."

Wearing the color red is critical as it is associated with luck and prosperity.

"Red is the most joyful, happy, prosperous color," Maasbach said. "You should wear red for the next 15 days because the lunar celebration lasts for 15 days culminating in the lantern festival."

Red envelopes that include money are traditionally given from elders to children representing the transfer of fortune.

"For the Lunar New Year, because you're surrounded by family and friends and you're reflecting and you're hoping that the new year is better," Maasbach said, "there's a real opportunity to revisit some of your commitments for the new year."