Lunar New Year: Traditions and How Brands Have Embraced It

Filed Under: Asian American, Multicultural


Shaili Bhatt

Alum, Online Qualitative Research

Lunar New Year is an annual celebration deeply rooted in rich historical and cultural traditions, marking a significant occasion for millions of people globally. This year, the holiday is celebrated on February 10, widely celebrated among many Asian communities that follow the lunar calendar, including families from China, Vietnam, Korea, and Tibet.

Understanding Lunar New Year vs. Chinese New Year

Contrary to common misconceptions, the terms “Lunar New Year” and “Chinese New Year” are not entirely interchangeable. “Chinese New Year” refers to New Year celebrations in China, with Chinese-specific traditions like lion dances and giving out red envelopes, whereas the Lunar New Year is much broader. So, while all Chinese New Year celebrations are Lunar New Year celebrations, not all “Lunar New Year” celebrations are “Chinese New Year” due to the unique traditions upheld in these different countries.

Celebrating Across Cultures: Duration and Traditions

Celebrations for these holidays last a bit longer than people might expect. Lunar New Year, also known as the “Spring Festival” in China, technically spans over 15 days! There are family reunions and feasts, and the culmination of Lunar New Year is the Lantern Festival, held on the 15th and final day, marked by watching nighttime lantern parades and eating tangyuan (sweet rice balls). In the Korean culture, the Lunar New Year, known as “Seollal,” spans over three days; this includes the day before the New Year called “Seollal Eve,” the actual day of the New Year, and the day after the New Year. While people return to work one or more days after the New Year, the feeling of celebration lingers.

The Significance of the Year of the Dragon

Per the Lunar Calendar, the Year 2024 ushers in the “Year of the Dragon.” The Dragon is the only mythical creature among the twelve zodiac animals in the Lunar Calendar; it is revered and associated with immense power and good fortune. The Year of the Dragon is considered particularly fortunate for new beginnings, bold actions, and major life changes – such as starting a business or having a baby. For many, this year will be an exciting time, with heightened expectations for prosperity, growth, and a touch of the extraordinary.

Lunar New Year Is Embraced by Many Industries

Mirroring this holiday’s inclusive and festive spirit, companies across various industries have increasingly adopted creative measures to observe Lunar New Year both in their stores and on their websites.

Fashion and Beauty

The retail industry has made significant strides in incorporating Lunar New Year themes and symbols into their merchandise in a tangible show of support for cultural inclusivity.

Brands across diverse price ranges, such as luxury labels Kate Spade and Louis Vuitton to primary retailers like Macy’s and Target, are enthusiastically launching Lunar New Year-centric collections, year after year. These product lines and collections typically showcase the year’s zodiac animal and heavily utilize red and gold hues, given their particular auspicious significance in the Lunar New Year context.

Target, Disney, and Lego have been integrating prominent displays and annual holiday-specific merchandise into their family-friendly retail offerings, exhibiting repeat success in their retail portfolios. This year, Target is offering dragon-themed Lunar New Year decorations created in collaboration with New York-based artist Yiran Xia. LEGO is offering several sets at various price points featuring dragons, money trees, lanterns, and a “family reunions” playset, bringing cultural iconography and traditions to life in toy form.

The beauty industry, too, has embraced the Lunar New Year with open arms. Cosmetic brands like Sephora, MAC Cosmetics, and Estee Lauder offer limited-edition products featuring vibrant Lunar New Year motifs. They feature exclusive packaging with traditional symbols, including lanterns, dragons, and zodiac animals, ensuring their customers can celebrate the holiday in style. Aesthetically pleasing packaging in festive colors and motifs makes products like this ideal for gifting.

Companies like Hallmark, American Greetings, and LovePop are recognizing the importance of Lunar New Year by offering an array of thoughtfully crafted greeting cards and e-cards. These cards celebrate this cultural diversity by providing a more personal connection for Asian-American communities and others who celebrate this holiday to express their wishes for prosperity, wealth, and good health. In a similar light, Walgreens and Shutterfly offer image-publishing services with templates to customize Lunar New Year cards for those who prefer adding a more personalized touch.

Celebrating with Gifts and Greetings

During the Lunar New Year festivities, it is a common traditional practice to exchange gifts of money, often presented in red envelopes, known as ‘hongbao’ in China, ‘lì xì’ in Vietnam, and ‘seollal’ in Korea. It is commonly given by the elderly or married couples to younger, unmarried individuals and children. The amount of money varies, but this exchange of money highlights the cultural emphasis on blessing loved ones with prosperity and fortune in the coming year. Starbucks, Best Buy, Target, and others are offering gift cards with traditional and auspicious designs. Such initiatives not only offer customers a chance to gift their loved ones something unique but also promote cultural inclusion and mutual respect.

Tech and Social Media

In the tech domain, companies like Apple go beyond their regular offerings to celebrate Lunar New Year. Apple, for instance, has launched Lunar New Year-themed ads tailored to Asian audiences and rolled out red and gold products recognizing the holiday’s symbolic colors. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat often launch unique Lunar New Year emojis, filters, and stories, enabling users worldwide to share their celebrations. Check them out by searching #lunarnewyear – there are already an abundance of posts this year!

On the digital front, many of these consumer-facing retail brands have been updating their websites to reflect the Lunar New Year’s festive spirit. From showcasing related products on their homepages to sending out themed newsletters and implementing site-wide decorations that echo the holiday’s aesthetic, companies are leveraging their online presence to celebrate the Lunar New Year alongside their consumers, regardless of their location.

The Importance of Lunar New Year for Global Brands

The celebration of Lunar New Year by various brands and retail sectors reflects a tangible move towards inclusivity and respect for cultural diversity. Incorporating Lunar New Year into the annual cycle of celebrated holidays is a remarkable stride toward recognizing the growing multicultural nature of today’s consumer markets. It reflects how these teams have worked on strengthening their inclusivity strategies – learning about, acknowledging, and honoring the cultural roots of a group of their target audiences that want to be seen.

As we venture further into a globally inclusive business world, we hope to see more companies across industries celebrate the rich tapestry of worldwide cultures, traditions, and holidays, like Lunar New Year.

Hey, get our newsletter

join 5,000+ market research professionals
who “emerge smarter” with our insights