The Lunar New Year, or as many people know it, Chinese New Year, will be on Saturday, January 25 in 2020. This year is the Year of the Rat.

Lawyer jokes aside, the rat is a symbol of shrewdness and adaptability. (In the Disney-Pixar movie Ratatouille, the main character also had excellent taste.)

Chinese New Year is a major holiday in China and many of its neighboring cultures, including Korea and Vietnam. Based on the lunar calendar, it is celebrated worldwide by people of Chinese ancestry, and there are notable celebrations in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Europe, Canada, and of course, the United States.

There are many traditions for celebrating the Lunar New Year, based on a 3,800-year-old Chinese myth.

Guò nián

The story goes that there was a terrible beast called Nian, who would awaken once a year and come to feast on villagers’ crops, livestock, and even their children! An old man went out and defeated Nian, and told the villagers they would need to do this for themselves from now on. When they begged the old man to stay, he revealed himself as a god, and taught them how he had defeated the demon.

Nian, it turns out, was easily frightened of loud noises, strange creatures, and the color red. To ward him off each year, the villagers must make noise, wear scary masks, and display the color red.

The Chinese phrase for New Year is guò nián—which literally means to pass over, or overcome Nian. Here are some of the traditional ways to celebrate:

Family reunions

The Lunar New Year is a time to honor deities and ancestors, and to connect the past to the present by celebrating with family. Many families gather for an annual reunion dinner on the evening before Chinese New Year's Day.

Red envelopes

Parents and employers give the gift of wealth, or cash, to children or unmarried adults in red packets or envelopes.  

A clean sweep

It is traditional to thoroughly clean your house in the days before the Lunar New Year. Doing this sweeps away any bad luck from the past, and makes way for good fortune to enter. However, avoid dusting and cleaning on New Year’s Day. You don’t want to sweep away the good luck.

New clothes

Refreshing your wardrobe is an extension of the tradition of starting the year with a fresh new outlook.

Decorating with red

Lunar New Year decorations include hanging red paper lanterns, paper-cuts and couplets in windows and on doors. A couplet consists of two wooden or paper strips with complementary poetic lines in Chinese script.


Setting off fireworks and celebrating with noisemakers wards off the evil Nian.

Dances and parades

This is one of the most globally recognized Lunar New Year traditions. Dances are performed outdoors, accompanied by loud drums and cymbals, sometimes as a street parade. Dancers wear large masks of strange, threatening creatures to frighten away demons or bad fortune.

If you celebrate the Lunar New Year, we at LawWorks wish you a happy Year of the Rat.

If you don’t, maybe this year can be the start of a new tradition!

And because we can’t resist, just one lawyer-rat joke:

A scientific research team suggested replacing its lab rats with lawyers for testing purposes. Their rationale:
  • The lab assistants would not become as emotionally attached to the lawyers as they did to the sweet little rats.
  • Lawyers are easier to find.
  • Animal activists won’t care if they harm lawyers.
  • There are some things even a rat won't do.

过年好 - Guò nián hǎo!

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