In most of Asia, especially China, Korea, and Vietnam, the New Year begins with the first full moon of the first Chinese lunar month. Special foods are eaten in each region.
In China, foods are prepared ahead (using a knife during New Year's might "cut luck") and include dishes with names that sound auspicious, such as tangerines (good fortune), fish (surplus), and chestnuts (profit). Meats, fried dishes (such as fried rice dumplings), and alcoholic beverages (which are all considered yang, or strong foods) are also common. In Korea, soup containing small glutinous rice cakes or steamed dumplings are a must. In Vietnam, bahn chung, a glutinous rice cake filled with meat and beans cooked in banana leaves is a New Year's specialty. Pork with lotus root and shark fin soup are also favored. Small mandarin trees in full fruit are purchased for each home as a sign of hospitality.
One tradition practiced in both China and Vietnam has to do with the annual report on the family's past activities to the gods, who then determine the following year's fortune.
In Chinese culture, an offering is made a week before the New Year to the picture of the Chinese Kitchen God hung in most homes. The food is usually sweet and sticky, so that when the God departs to Heaven to make his report, he will only say favorable things (in some regions the lips in the picture are actually smeared with honey or malt). In Vietnam, it is Ong Tao (Spirit of the Hearth), he is represented by 3 small stones and honored at his altar with a sweet soy bean soup and sweet rice cakes.
The beginning of the New Year is celebrated by many cultures on January 1st. Some celebrations, such as in the U.S., take place on...