By Nick Tomlinson
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons via Google.
Although the Lunar New Year is thought to be primarily celebrated in China, it is important to a multitude of Asian countries. One of the most beloved portions of the holiday comes in the form of games and activities. From playing cards to new apps, millions of people are invested in this entertaining side of the Lunar New Year.
The most popular game is Majiang or Mah Jong, and it’s not even close. Similar to the Western game Rummy, it consists of tiles and is played in groups of four. Majiang is full of complexity and strategy, and it can be additionally difficult to pick up without a basic understanding of Chinese characters. On the other hand, the game Dou Dizhu is much easier to learn, but incredibly difficult to master. Known in the Western world as Chinese Poker, it can be played in groups of three or more and is full of variations. Its exciting and fast-paced nature makes it ideal for the New Year’s atmosphere. The usage of cards is not limited to games like poker though, as cards are also used in the Chinese tradition of telling fortunes and predicting futures. Many families believe that the superstitious arrangement of the playing cards can determine good or bad luck in certain months of the new year.
In addition to these long standing traditions, new technology and apps have weaved their way into the Lunar New Year culture. Children and adults have recently become invested in a new Spring Festival game connected to the principles of Hongbao. Giving Hongbao, or red packets, which are full of money to friends and family is customary during the New Year celebration. Nowadays, this can be done easily through messaging platforms such as WeChat, which creates a fun competition in group chats regarding who can be the first to open these digital envelopes and claim the prize.
Another challenge during the Lunar New Year comes in the form of Lantern Riddles. During the Lantern Festival which occurs on the last day of the Spring Festival, people have the opportunity to solve riddles connected to bright red lanterns hung all over city squares. The difficulty of these puzzles varies, but they contribute to an entertaining experience for all who are involved. In addition, the presence of the lanterns creates an urban beauty which is unique to the New Year. Obviously, these beautiful lanterns could not be hung around the city if they were not carefully crafted first. Creating the lanterns themselves is another fun, artistic activity in celebration of the Lunar New Year. With so many games and activities to choose from, there is truly something for everyone. Whether it’s playing cards with your friends, making lanterns with your family, or passing Hongbao to your loved ones, celebrating the new year will be a joyful, worthwhile experience. There’s no better feeling than having fun and embracing culture, especially when there could be some money involved.