The Oscars are coming up in a few weeks, and here are some of the best travel movies to celebrate! Do our Globe Aware volunteers recognize any of these movies, and do you have more to add!?
These Are The 13 All-Time Best Movies About Travel
By Gary Leff
February 18, 2024
View From The Wing
The best travel movies ever made is a mix of life up in the air (the art of traveling) and life on the ground (human drama unfolding in interesting places around the globe). The list of best movies about travel weighs heavily towards planes and airports but I’ve also given some thought to being in an unfamiliar place and growing as a person because of the places you’ve been.
I think each of these films is a classic for a reason, and I try to offer a brief take why they’re one of the best travel movies. That even holds for some of the ones on the list that may not have been so critically acclaimed.
Up in the Air is top of the list of best travel movies for reasons that should be obvious, Die Hard 2 is awesome even if it’s absurd with more plot holes than the business plan for Washington Dulles’ Independence Air. But was there every really a better air crash investigator than Kris Kristofferson in the broadly panned Millenium?
Here’s my top 13 best travel movies. What are yours? What am I missing?
1. Up in the Air
The movie was not in any way related to the book, which I read on a United Washington Dulles – San Francisco flight in 2001. The two female leads in the film didn’t even exist in the book (Vera Farmiga kind of sort of did). But George Clooney plays us, they go through security and throw down elite status cards and Clooney is on a quest to pad his mileage balance.
It tries too hard at times to be an allegory for the Great Recession which was at its depths in 2009 when the film was released. It makes one fundamental mistake about rental cars. But the airport and flight scenes, along with hotel check-ins, are absolutely awesome. To know me is to fly with me. Oh, and there’s a deleted scene you may not know about.
2. Die Hard 2
A year after taking down terrorists at Los Angeles’ Nakatomi Building, Bruce Willis’ John McClane battles terrorists again — this time at Washington Dulles airport.
Nevermind that the pay phones at the airport say Pacific Bell giving away that this isn’t really Dulles. And I’ve never figured out why planes in a holding pattern that were running out of fuel never sought to divert to Baltimore or Richmond. But Willis trying to wave off a plane that was about to crash land was just a phenomenal scene… And so was the late Fred Thompson ordering all inbound aircraft into holding by declaring “Pack ’em, stack ’em, and rack ’em.”
Denzel Washington as an alcoholic pilot. Most of the movie is Washington (not) dealing with his addiction but the controlled crash scene is incredible.
Over Macho Grande? I don’t think I’ll ever get over Macho Grande.
If you’re rather watch Airplane as a drama, it tracks closely with Zero Hour!. The Zero Hour script was purchased by the writers and many scenes are literally a comedic version of the 1957 film.
In fact, here’s a side-by-side comparison of the two movies:
5. Before Sunrise (Vienna) Before Sunset (Paris) Before Midnight (Greece)
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy walk and talk — with youthful idealism masked as cynicism in Vienna, reconnecting years later through the streets of Paris, and dealing with the challenges of their relationship and doubts about life on an island in Greece.
The screenwriting is phenomenal and acting believable, and we get a taste of a different place in Europe in each film.
6. National Lampoon’s Vacation and European Vacation (but not Christmas Vacation)
The first film was the classic family road trip as Chevy Chase takes his clan on a journey through its own history, his own mid-life regrets, and his deeply committed quest to be a good father — taking everyone to Wally World and flirting with Christie Brinkley along the way.
7. The Terminal
Tom Hanks is on a quest that brings him to New York, but he can’t leave the airport because his passport is invalidated by a coup in his home country. It’s based on the true story of an 18 year stay at Paris Charles de Gaulle.
8. Lost in Translation
Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson are lost and detached from their lives, and explore Tokyo together. They see the city as foreigners, they’re foreign to each other and to themselves, and the story revolves as much around the Park Hyatt Tokyo as it does Japanese karaoke.
I love the Park Hyatt on its own terms (though it’s not really conveniently located) but the movie makes the property special, and the property helps make the movie special. It’s my favorite Bill Murray performance and of course I’ve been unable to sleep in Shinjuku though I found myself at the Denny’s rather than the New York Bar. No Scarlett Johansson, but it was the best Denny’s I ever visited.
9. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Holiday travel is rough. I hate flying on ‘amateur days’. It’s far worse during irregular operations. But if you’re determined enough, you can get where you’re going — even if it takes changing from a plane to a train and circumstances force you to drive across much of the country.
Although I actually prefer the Charles Grodin / Robert De Niro version Midnight Run.
This 1970 film was the first of a series, and a classic disaster movie that intertwines the lives of people dealing with keeping an airport open during a major weather event while a bomber plots to blow up a plane.
Ok, so this movie only has an 11% ‘Fresh’ rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Kris Kristofferson plays an NTSB investigator looking into the collision of a Boeing 747 and a DC-10 where all the passengers of the 747 appeared to be dead prior to ground impact, even though the plane caught fire only once it hit the ground. Because, time travel.
12. Pushing Tin
John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton are air traffic controllers. It’s dark, and probably not a great movie, but the scenes at New York TRACON are awesome.
13. Boeing Boeing
Tony Curtis is an American in Paris dating 3 different flight attendants — for Air France, Lufthansa, and British United Airways — whose international routes never have them in town at the same time. They all live with him whenever they’re in Paris, with photos and personal touches swapped out to match each one of them.
Then technology intervenes: faster planes means schedule changes, so that all of their schedules overlap, and hijinks ensue…
There are other films I considered for this list. For instance I felt like I had to include Sully but the truth is that the whole movie was just an excuse for an amazing flight sequence – but you can’t really sell an evening’s entertainment that lasts just several minutes. Still, what they did re-creating US Airways 1549 was incredible.
I even considered She’s Out Of My League. There are few jobs worse than TSA screener. It’s low rent security theater and you have to wear rubber gloves because the work environment is gross and that’s before you pat down grandma. But once in awhile Hollywood can give the men and women in blue a win.
And I thought about Soul Plane, but…
What else belongs as one of the best travel movies?
India has around 3,000 tigers which makes up about 80% of the world’s tiger population! Ranthambore National Park is one of the best places to find tigers in India and is conveniently positioned if your travel includes the volunteer vacation site of Jaipur.
The 12 Best Places to Find Tigers in India
February 18, 2024
Breaking Travel News
Although tigers in India are seriously endangered, numbers are on the rise thanks to the herculean efforts of conservationists. However, there is no guarantee of a tiger sighting when visiting, but the wonderful National Parks which India has to offer are still a rewarding experience, with the chance to spot a multitude of creatures and an array of flora.
It’s been said that India is just as good a safari destination as Africa; it even has its own ‘Big Five’ – the Asiatic leopard, Asiatic lion, Bengal tiger, Indian elephant and the One-horned Rhino.
With so many places to choose from, where are the best places to find these incredible animals in India?
Where can you see Tigers in India?
India has around 3,000 tigers, making up about 80% of the world’s tiger population!
With 50+ designated Tiger Reserves, it can be tempting to try and cram in as many parks as possible. However, focusing on a few and spending two or three days is a good strategy. Some distances between parks can be very long, and the early morning safaris can make it all a bit exhausting. That’s why a longer stay in each park is advisable to give you more chances to spot those stripes.
When is the best time to see Tigers in India?
The best time to spot tigers in India is in April, May and June because the heat brings them out to the watering holes. However, if the high temperature is too much for you, then we suggest the cooler months of March to mid-April. The winter months are cold and misty, so sightings are less likely unless you’re in the South.
The best places to find Tigers in India
North India -
1. Corbett Tiger Reserve
Top of the list of the best places to find tigers in India is Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand. Corbett Tiger Reserve has the highest tiger numbers among India’s 50 tiger reserves with 252 inside the reserve and 266 using the reserve, according to a report released by the Union Environment Department.
Founded in 1936 as Hailey National Park, Corbett is India’s oldest and most well-known National Park. In 1973, the first Project Tiger launch was held there. The park is named after Jim Corbett, a British wildlife photographer, former hunter, tracker, naturalist, and author.
This distinct tiger habitat is 520 square kilometres in size and includes hills, meadows, riverine belts, marshy depressions and a sizable lake. It is one of the few tiger reserves in India that permits overnight stays, making it a truly unique experience for visitors. The park is a favourite among wildlife enthusiasts as it is also home to unusual species like the rare fish-eating crocodile.
2. Ranthambore National Park
Ranthambore National Park is one of the best places to find tigers in India and is conveniently positioned if your visit includes the Golden Triangle destinations of Agra, Delhi and Jaipur. It’s home to around 81 diurnal tigers who are active during the day, unlike most tigers who are nocturnal, increasing your chances of glimpsing them.
Once the hunting grounds of the Jaipur Maharajas, Ranthambore, is one of the most famous national parks in India and is home to a wide variety of mammals and reptiles, 272 kinds of birds, and around 300 species of plants. Nature aside, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Ranthambore Fort lies at its centre which is well worth a visit. The park can get very busy, so book in advance to secure your time slots for the best zones in the park.
Central India -
3. Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Bandhavgarh National Park, formerly the wildlife reserve of the Maharajas, is a great place to see a flash of striped fur because it contains one of India’s higher tiger populations. At the latest count, the park is home to around 60 tigers. As it’s fairly small in size compared to the other National Parks, Bandhavgarh is one the best places to find tigers in India as you have a good chance of viewing a tiger up close on safari.
In addition, the park is home to a sizable leopard population, 250 different bird species, 70 different kinds of butterflies, and a wide variety of reptiles.
4. Pench National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Pench National Park was the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, and hundreds of tourists come here to view many of the characters from the tale. These include Baloo (the sloth bear), Akela (the Indian wolf), Raksha (the female Wolf), and of course Shere Khan (the royal Bengal tiger).
In January 2022, the park lost its most famous resident, Tigress T15, more commonly known as Collarwali. She died of old age at 16, a mean feat considering the average age of a tiger is 12 and she gave birth to 29 cubs in eight litters! She also gave birth to 5 cubs in one go, which is very rare for a tigress to do. Today, Pench has over 53 tigers living in the reserve and an additional 80 tigers (approximately) who come to visit.
The park is also home to barking deer, four-horned antelopes, Indian leopards, striped hyenas, and a variety of native birds.
5. Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Also known as Kanha Tiger Reserve, Kanha National Park is one of Asia’s best-kept national parks and is the habitat of India’s renowned Royal Bengal Tigers. The deer and antelopes they hunt wander the beautiful forests and meadows, accompanied by Indian Elephants, sloth bears, and various birds.
This park is home to 500 of the 6,000 tigers that are thought to exist worldwide, making it one of the best places to find tigers in India in its 30,000 km2 area, which features some of India’s finest tiger habitat.
6. Satpura National Park, Madhya Pradesh
See amazing wildlife at a close distance by jeep, canoe or on foot in the unspoiled unique ecosystem of the calm Satpura National Park. Many types of mammals including bears, antelopes, leopards and wild boar meander through the beautiful hilly terrain.
With just 50 tigers in the park, they might be slightly more elusive to spot, but Satpura is still among the loveliest locations if you wish to observe other types of wildlife, including enormous squirrels!
7. Panna National Park, Madhya Pradesh
In 2009, Panna National Park was nearly devoid of any tigers due to poachers, but thanks to a repopulation programme, tigers roam around once more. In 2021, the number increased to 64 thanks to 12 tigresses actively breeding. These tigresses gave birth to 16 cubs in the same year.
Alongside tigers, you’ll also find a multitude of creatures within the park, including leopards, chital, nilgai and sloth bears.
East India –
8. Kaziranga National Park, Assam
Surrounded by the Karbi Anglong mountains and the Brahmaputra River, the stunning Kaziranga National Park is one of the best places to find tigers in India.
Kaziranga National Park was declared a Tiger Reserve in 2006 and now has the highest density of tigers in the world (1 per 5 km2), with a population of 118, according to the latest census.
The park also hosts two-thirds of the world’s endangered Indian one-horned rhinoceroses population, and you can also spot elephants, wild water buffalo and swamp deer, along with beautiful migrating and inhabitant birds.
9. Sundarban National Park
A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sundarbans National Park is the world’s largest mangrove forest, literally translating to ‘beautiful jungle’.
One of the largest Tiger Reserves in the world, the Sundarbans offers visitors the chance to see the Royal Bengal Tiger, one of India’s most recognisable wildlife species. There are around 96 living in the park.
A large variety of biodiversity, including over 260 bird species and other creatures, including rare species like the Indian python and estuarine crocodile, call the Sundarbans home. The park is also the location of the Bhagabatpur Crocodile Project, the only crocodile project in West Bengal.
10. Bandipur National Park
One of the best places to find tigers in India if you’re visiting the south is Bandipur National Park. Spread over a whopping 874 km, the park is committed to protecting endangered species of animals.
Established as a Tiger Reserve in 1974 under Project Tiger, the park is home to majestic Bengal tigers, as well as Indian elephants, wild boar, sambar deer, Indian leopards, over 200 species of birds, many reptiles and numerous rare butterflies.
11. Periyar National Park
Situated in the middle of the beautiful Cardamom Hills lies Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve, home to rare and endangered flora and fauna. The best way to explore the park is by covered boat, to try and spot mammals including Bengal tigers, Asian elephants, white tigers, Indian giant squirrels, numerous reptiles, amphibians and around 266 species of bird.
The tiger population in the area is estimated to be about 40. Although it is difficult to see the tigers, visitors often spot scratch marks around the reserve.
12. Nagarhole, Karnataka
Once the Maharaja’s reserved forest, Nagarhole covers the gentle hills bordering Kerala and houses swampland, deciduous forest, and valuable teak and rosewood trees. Nagarahole Tiger Reserve continues to be the most densely populated tiger reserve in Karnataka, with more than 125 adult tigers roaming in 644 sq km of protected area, which is 11.82 tigers per 100 sq km range, making this reserve one of the best places to find tigers in India if you’re visiting the south.
In addition to tigers, the park also has elephants, leopards, gaur (Indian Bison), dhole (Indian Wild Dogs), monkeys sambar deer, along with a diverse selection of bird species.
Scammers intent on stealing money from unhappy travelers are running wild on social media. Globe Aware volunteers should watch out for these imposter accounts.
Travellers targeted as scammers run wild on social media
Exclusive: When an easyJet passenger complained on X, no fewer than 10 imposter accounts contacted him
Scammers intent on stealing money from unhappy travellers are running wild on social media. One easyJet passenger who complained on X (formerly Twitter) about a baggage issue was contacted by 10 scam accounts. Even 24 hours after they were reported to X, five were still running.
As The Independent first revealed in 2022, scammers based in East Africa are seeking to cash in on travellers’ complaints to airlines and holiday companies.
The criminals set up “imposter” accounts and respond to the complainant. They then ask for a phone number and contact the traveller by WhatsApp, and claim the travel firm’s customer service department has been outsourced to Kenya or Tanzania. They proceed with an elaborate fraud in which the customer is tricked into sending money on a remittance app.
Passengers on easyJet have been repeatedly targeted – starting in the summer of 2023, when the airline was cancelling thousands of flights.
The scam has become so rife that when Richard Knight complained on X about being charged for taking a bag on board a flight from London Gatwick to Palma de Mallorca, no fewer than 10 scam sites replied to him.
One, which has the handle @easyJet4ti, wrote: “Hi I’m sorry for the inconvenience and I’m here to help, please follow back and DM us for assistance.”
This scam account is still one of five functioning despite all 10 having been reported to X by The Independent.
Mr Knight, 47, copied in the British Airways X site on his complaint, and received several replies claiming to be from BA. One scam account, @BritishAir_Kl, gave exactly the same response as an easyJet fake, @easyJet_easy_. It read: “Hi, we apologize for the inconvenience. Please note that we have already escalated this matter to the relevant department, kindly follow back and DM your reachable number for quick assistance. Thank you. - Nicole.”
Another BA imposter claimed to be “Seen Dolye CEO British Airways”. The airline’s chief executive is Sean Doyle.
The easyJet passenger, Richard Knight, did not engage with the scam sites but made a second attempt to contact the airline’s official social media staff.
He wrote: “£48 for a bag that was just the wheels too big for the slot. Bunch of crooks F*** you, you greedy b******s hope you choke on the money.”
The easyJet X team replied: “Hi Richard . I am happy to help in any way I can, but further offence will result in the termination of the interaction as offensive language is not tolerated.- Thanks, Jay.”
A spokesperson for easyJet said: “We continue to report fake accounts to X so they can take any necessary action.
“We advise customers to only follow and engage with our sole official channel @easyJet, which is identifiable by the gold verification badge for official businesses, for the latest updates or to seek support and to be vigilant and to not engage with or click on any links from other accounts.”
Attempts by The Independent to contact X have been met by the repeated response: “Busy now, please check back later.”
En Masse Marriages in the Philippines, snowdrop letters in Denmark, and more!? Globe Aware volunteers, find out how the rest of the world celebrates Valentine’s Day!
14 Valentine's Day traditions from around the world
Find out how countries like France, Italy, Germany and others celebrate February 14 each year.
Jan. 6, 2023
By Barbara Bellesi Zito and Sarah Lemire
Each year on Valentine's Day, Americans shower friends, family and lovers with gifts, greeting cards and romantic gestures to let their special someones know just how much they're loved.
But what about other countries around the world — what kinds of Valentine's Day traditions do they commemorate? And how are they the same and how do they differ from V-Day celebrations in the U.S.?
To find out more, TODAY.com looked at various Valentine's Day customs in far-flung locales like Italy, Germany, England, Finland and, naturally, France too, since it's home to The City of Love.
Read on to learn about the practices and romantic gestures citizens of those countries and others do to recognize the international day of love.
You might be surprised to learn that some countries, like Finland for example, don't celebrate romance on Valentine's Day, but rather the special bond of friendship.
Let’s take a look at some of the countries that are hit by Cupid’s bow each year and how they mark the occasion.
Instead of celebrating a traditional Valentine's Day, in which significant others are honored with gifts, greeting cards and romantic gestures, Finland, instead celebrates Ystävänpäivä (pronounced YOUS-ta-van-PIE-vah).
Ystävänpäivä, loosely translates to "Friendship Day," and that is exactly what's commemorated each year on Feb. 14. Rather than showy displays of love and affection on Valentine's Day, Fins offer their pals and loved ones small presents and mementos to let them know how much they're valued.
Not so different from the U.S., people in Spain honor San Valentín, or Saint Valentine, on Feb. 14 and celebrate the holiday much like Americans, with gifts, romantic dinners and other sweet traditions.
For some, the real holiday for celebrating love comes on Oct. 9 when some Spaniards, particularly Valencians, commemorate a different saint: Saint Dionysus, who's considered by many to be the patron saint of love. In honor of Oct. 9, certain regions of Spain host parades, festivals and other celebrations. It's also customary for men to give their sweethearts silk scarves or handkerchiefs with marzipan in a tradition known as Mocaorà.
Valentine’s Day has gotten more popular over the years in the Czech Republic, although it’s celebrated as “The Day of Love” on May 1 instead of Feb. 14. It’s become a tradition for couples to visit the statue of Czech poet Karel Hynek Macha, situated near a cherry tree grove. As if this celebration of poetry weren’t romantic enough, the lovers kiss under the boughs of the cherry trees for good luck.
Couples are not the only ones who partake in Valentine’s Day festivities in Denmark and Norway. Friends and family swap “lover’s cards,” which range in sentiment from touching to hilarious. Some might even send an anonymous joke letter — the signature is written only using dots — called a "gaekkebrev." The letter features intricate paper cut-outs and a short poem or message.
If recipient of the gaekkebrev — which translates to "snowdrop letter" — guesses the identity of the sender, they are owed an egg at Easter. It works in reverse, too: If the guess incorrectly, they must give the sender an Easter egg.
There’s a variety of ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day in England, but one of the more popular ways is to be regaled by the sweet sound of children singing. In turn, little crooners get candy, fruit or money. Some might even trade Valentine buns — also known as "plum shuttles" — baked with raisins, plums or caraway seeds to commemorate a bountiful harvest.
France, especially Paris, has long been considered one of the most romantic destinations on the planet, regardless of what day of the year it happens to be. But when Feb. 14 rolls around, lovers trade letters or cards and give gifts, much like they do in the U.S.
If you’ve had enough of heart-shaped trinkets on Valentine’s Day, get inspired by German couples who exchange pig-shaped gifts instead. Apparently, the pig is the symbol of both love and lust, so it’s not uncommon to give and receive pig statues, stuffed animals and more. Flowers and chocolates are also shared, as well as ginger cookies featuring loving phrases in icing.
You don’t have to be in a romantic relationship to revel in the love fest that is Valentine’s Day in Mexico. That’s because Feb. 14 is "El Día del Amor y Amistad," which translates to the "Day of Love and Friendship," where everyone regardless of their relationship status can celebrate with flowers, cards, stuffed animals and more.
No pressure if you’re dating someone in the Philippines and Valentine’s Day rolls around. The government actually hosts a huge marriage ceremony en masse so hundreds of lovebirds can tie the knot.
Chocolate is the way to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Japan. If someone’s really into you, you’ll get "honmei choco" (true love chocolate). But if you’re a friend or relative, you’ll enjoy "giri choco" (obligatory chocolate) instead. Honestly, it sounds like a sweet deal either way.
You won’t find many secret admirers on Valentine’s Day in South Africa, which is actually celebrated on Feb. 15 in honor of the Roman festival Lupercalia. That’s because some women will literally wear their heart on their sleeves — or rather, they’ll write the name of the object of their affection on a slip of paper and pin it to their sleeve. Not feeling that bold? You could simply shower someone with flowers or small gifts instead.
Flowers and gifts are abundant here, but so is chocolate — at least for the men. For Valentine’s Day, women gift their men with chocolate; the men respond in kind a month later on White Day. But singles are also given their day on April 14. This is known as Black Day, when uncoupled folks brood over (or celebrate?) their single status with a bowl of "jajangmyeon," noodles in a black bean sauce.
To say that the Taiwanese like flowers as a token of love is an understatement. Men will give huge bouquets to their loves on Feb. 14 and later again on July 7. If you’re in Taiwan and receive a bouquet with exactly 108 roses, someone is asking you to marry them!
Italians celebrate "La Festa Degli Innamorati" in commemoration of Juno, the Goddess of Women and Marriage. Old-school tradition has it that the first man a single woman sees on Feb. 14 will become her husband (or at least look like him). It’s common to gift romantic partners with those well-loved Perugina Baci chocolates — delectable chocolate candies with a hazelnut or sweet cherry center covered by wrappers featuring poetic sentiments.
In Verona, where the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet lived, Valentine’s Day stretches into four days of festivities marked by free concerts in the Piazza dei Signori and heart lanterns lighting up the town. Inspired lovers can share their sentiments in a love-letter writing contest, while foodies can indulge in one of the many dinner specials being offered by local restaurants.
Across the globe, around 2 billion people celebrate the Lunar New Year, an international holiday observed throughout many Asian countries. Each culture that celebrates has its own historically rich customs, traditions, and beliefs, which Globe Aware volunteers can learn about on a volunteer vacation.
We're approaching the Year of the Dragon. What does that mean?
Jan. 27, 2024
Some consider the start of the new year to be when the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31. While this is true for those who follow the Gregorian calendar, many others celebrate the new year on a different day.
Across the globe, around 2 billion people celebrate the Lunar New Year, an international holiday observed throughout many Asian countries, but not all. The U.S. has its own unique celebrations.
Each year, the date of Lunar New Year changes. But no matter the date, each culture that celebrates has its own historically rich customs, traditions and beliefs.
When is Lunar New Year?
This year, Lunar New Year falls on Saturday, Feb. 10.
Lunar New Year's date changes every year since it follows a lunar calendar, according to Gang Liu, a professor of Chinese studies at Carnegie Mellon University.
Many Western countries – including the U.S. – use the Gregorian calendar, which is based on a system of 365 days (plus a leap day every four years). Lunar New Year is based the moon's 12 phases. Each phase cycle spans approximately 29 days with the full calendar being about 354 days long.
On the Gregorian calendar, Lunar New Year generally falls during the last ten days of January or the first ten days of February, says Chen Yang, a professor of Chinese culture and philosophy at George Washington University.
Who celebrates Lunar New Year?
Lunar New Year is celebrated in many Asian cultures, Xiaoquan Raphael Zhang, the director of the Chinese program at American University, previously told USA TODAY. Among these cultures are Chinese, South Korean, Vietnamese, Singaporean, Malaysian, Filipino and Indonesian.
Each culture has its own name for the New Year. For instance, Lunar New Year in China is called the Spring Festival, or chūnjié. South Korea refers to the Lunar New Year as Seollal. In Vietnam, Lunar New Year is called Tết, which is short for Tết Nguyên Đán.
How long is Lunar New Year?
While the Western New Year lasts just one day, Lunar New Year goes beyond that.
In China, Lunar New Year spans from the first new moon to the next full moon, or the fifth day of the lunar month, Zhang previously told USA TODAY.
This begins with the Spring Festival and ends with the Lantern Festival, says Liu. In 2024, Lunar New Year starts Saturday, Feb. 10 and ends Saturday, Feb. 24.
The number of days of celebration varies depending on the country. In South Korea, Seollal usually lasts for three days. In Vietnam, Tết Nguyên Đán is a week long.
What does Lunar New Year signify?
Similar to the Western New Year, Lunar New Year symbolizes letting go of the past and ringing in the present. Celebrations are focused on removing the bad and the old and welcoming the new and the good, says Yang.
The Lunar New Year also is an important time for spending time with family to show one's love and gratitude, says Yang. People will pay their respects to their ancestors and older family members.
Its significance is similar to Thanksgiving or Christmas among Western cultures, says Liu. "It's a reunion time; it's a celebration time."
An integral part of Lunar New Year is that families will come together to practice cultural customs and to prepare and eat feasts. These customs, however, can vary depending on one's community, says Liu.
People will clean their homes leading up to the Lunar New Year, says Yang. They also might decorate them with red, which is seen as a color of good fortune in Chinese culture.
On Lunar New Year Eve, families come together to share a large meal, says Yang. Many will prepare fish as a sign of good luck and abundance in the new year. But the fish is not meant to be finished. "In Chinese, surplus has the same pronunciation as fish," explains Yang.
In many cultures, younger people will receive red envelopes with money on Lunar New Year. "You will usually receive red envelopes from your seniors," says Liu. Children may also get new clothes in celebration of the new year.
Fireworks are another way many people ring in the Lunar New Year.
What does the Year of the Dragon represent?
It's time to say goodbye to the year of the rabbit and say hello to the year of the dragon.
In the Chinese Zodiac, there are 12 animals. Each has its own attributes and characteristics. These 12 animals coincide with the lunar calendar in a 12-year cycle.
The order of the Chinese Zodiac is:
- Rabbit (in Vietnam, the rabbit is replaced by the cat)
2023 was represented by the rabbit (or cat in Vietnam). Those born under the Zodiac are often seen as caring, attentive to details and likely to follow rules. 2024 will be the year of the dragon.
"A dragon in China, as a culture, it's a spirit, it's a symbol," says Yang. "The dragon is a well-known mascot." Throughout Chinese history, the dragon has represented good luck, justice, prosperity and strength, he explains.
People born in the year of the dragon are seen as charismatic, intelligent, confident, powerful, naturally lucky and gifted, says Yang.
It’s the Year of the Dragon, and people can expect a lot of good fortune — but only if they’re harnessing the animal’s most important quality: compassion. Globe Aware volunteer vacations are an opportunity to spread that compassion and kindness worldwide.
The Year of the Dragon could be lucky — but only if we’re kind to one another
“Long-term, it could also be the year in which major conflict can be resolved, if people can focus on empathy,” one Chinese folklore scholar said.
Jan. 30, 2024
By Kimmy Yam
It’s the Year of the Dragon, and people can expect a lot of good fortune — but only if they’re harnessing the animal’s most important quality: compassion.
Lunar New Year — which includes Chinese New Year, Seollal in Korea, Tet in Vietnam and more — will begin Feb. 10, kicking off more than two weeks of festivities, customs and plenty of feasts. It celebrates the arrival of spring and the start of a fresh year based on the Chinese lunisolar calendar.
The upcoming year’s dragon sign is perhaps the most popular zodiac creature, associated with a host of positive qualities such as nobility, wealth and wisdom.
The year’s dragon sign is, more specifically, a wood dragon. The element of wood is seen in Daoist tradition as a return to the natural state of being, which in the dragon’s case, points to a return to kindness. And Confucian thought interprets wood as a symbol of unlimited potential.
“I’m seeing this wood Dragon year as a year of unlimited potential in terms of prosperity. Long-term, it could also be the year in which major conflict can be resolved, if people can focus on empathy,” said Jonathan H. X. Lee, a professor of Chinese folklore and religion at San Francisco State University. “If we continue our tribal thinking and selfish thinking, we’re not going to achieve it.”
He said it's important to approach contentious discussions in good faith with ongoing wars across the globe and with the United States in an election year.
“This comes from the teachings of Taoism, as well as Buddhism and Confucianism. Violence and conflict erupt and grow and fester and get even worse because of the ego,” Lee said. “If there is any kind of conflict, one is to suspend the ego and be reflective and introspective.”
According to Chinese folklore, the dragon was one of 12 animals that raced to the Jade Emperor in a competition that would determine the order of the zodiac signs. While flying overhead, it had noticed that the rabbit, a poor swimmer, had become stuck in the middle of a river.
“The dragon could have easily flown right over the rabbit and been the next one to cross over the finish line. But, instead, the dragon blew a very powerful breath that propeled the rabbit onto the shore. Then the dragon came after,” Lee said.
So, he said, it’s important to behave in accordance with generosity and selflessness, just as the dragon would.
“Being good, being kind and compassionate and loving will bring you an abundance,” Lee explained.
The dragon, which corresponds to years 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012 and 2024, has long been associated with highly valued traits, he said. Those born in the year of the dragon are often said to be generous, make great leaders and have a lot of charisma. In fact, many parents plan births around dragon years.
Additionally, the wood element, much like its practical use, is an extra reminder to set a good foundation that will lead to long-term success, rather than short-term gains, Lee said. And a strong foundation should be established with empathy at its core, he said.
However, not all will experience the year of the dragon in the same way, Lee said. Those with zodiac signs that are considered compatible with the dragon, such as the rabbit, snake, rooster and rat, could be looking forward to a very prosperous year, he said. But those who are born in the year of the dragon themselves will be going through what’s known in Chinese culture as benmingnian, or “fate year,” Lee said. The fate year falls on one’s zodiac year and is thought to be a rather difficult and challenging one.
“If you spent this year cultivating empathy, you will go into next year with a strong foundation to succeed in anything,” Lee said of those born in a dragon year. “You’re going to have success overflowing.”
Those who are born in the year of the dragon, in particular, can take other steps to counter any potential negative energy, as well, he said. He recommended wearing red, as well as yellow and green, which are often associated with the wood dragon. Adding plants and wooden items into the home can also help. And wearing jade pendants could be useful as they are thought to remove impurities from the body.
“If you do those kinds of folkloric practices, you can maximize the energy of the year,” Lee said.