Every year as Lunar New Year approaches, I receive a lot of funny questions such as “Is your new year and the Chinese New Year on the same date?” or "What is Lunar New Year? I only know Chinese New Year." But the most ridiculous question I get asked is “Why do the Viets celebrate the Chinese New Year when it’s “Chinese”?” What do you mean? This is exactly like asking why people around the world celebrate Christmas when not everyone believes in Jesus, or telling white people that they can’t have Chinese food because they aren’t Chinese. If we talk about something “Chinese,” I guess China has long dominated in manufacturing. Literally everything is made in China. But that doesn’t mean we can’t use the products just because they're "Chinese." In addition, a lot of Asian culture originates from China.
Let us call it Lunar New Year because it's not only the Chinese who celebrate it. Indeed, the holiday spread throughout Asia and was absorbed in Asian customs for centuries. China was in control of many Asian countries and they were assimilating us. It’s not only the Vietnamese; Koreans, Cambodians, Filipinos, Malaysians, Singaporeans, etc. still have Lunar New Year as the biggest holiday of the year.
Let us call it Lunar New Year, so it’s inclusive and we acknowledge the existence of some other Southeast Asian countries that also celebrate Lunar New Year. When it's "Chinese" New Year, it's specifically referring at the Chinese. Then what about the Laos, the Korean, the Vietnamese, etc. They can't celebrate the Chinese New Year in Chinese style because each Asian country will have its own traditions for the holiday.
Let us call it Lunar New Year to appreciate our world diversity. Besides the Gregorian calendar used by the entire world, we use the Lunar calendar as part of our social life to associate a lot of rituals and traditions.
Let us call it Lunar New Year so that other countries will not feel left out on their biggest holiday of the year. Seeing a commercial or a big banner saying “Happy Chinese New Year” is like walking into someone’s birthday big birthday party on your birthday, observing people saying "Happy Birthday" to the other person and celebrate their big day when it’s also your big day but no one really knows and cares.
For us, Lunar New Year is not just the first day of a new year. It is the day of reunion where children and grandchildren come back to visit their home and family, to look back and reevaluate how their previous year has been, and to make new resolutions for the next year. Where everyone gives each other the most wonderful wishes, eats delicious traditional cuisines, and has an excuse to go shopping, refresh their look and redecorate everything. It remarks a fresh start.
In fact, Lunar New Year is NOT what we “borrow” and celebrate as something “foreign,” it is part of our culture. Culture is not what we create; it is what we inherit and pass on through generations. Through years of history, every culture must have been impacted by a lot of other culture to create its own uniqueness. So please be open-minded enough to respect other people's ethnicity and background.