Lunar New Year, or Chinese New Year, will be celebrated on Sunday, January 22, 2023.
Why does the Lunar New Year start at a different time each year? How is it celebrated?
What does the Year of the Rabbit symbolize?
Learn all about this holiday!
In East Asia, Lunar New Year begins on the date of the second new Moon after the winter solstice, which always takes place in late December.
This means that the first day of the Lunar New Year can occur anytime between January 21 and February 20.
In 2023, this new Moon occurs in China on Sunday, January 22, marking the start of the Lunar New Year.
This is due the traditional Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar, which means that it is based on astronomical observations of the Sun’s position in the sky and the Moon’s phases.
This ancient calendar dates back to 14th century BCE, while the Gregorian calendar was introduced in 1582.
The Chinese lunisolar calendar shares some similarities with the Hebrew calendar, that is also lunisolar, and it has influenced other East Asian calendars, such as those of Korea and Vietnam.
Because the Chinese calendar defines the lunar month containing the winter solstice as the 11th month, Lunar New Year usually falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice.
Just like New Year according to the Gregorian calendar, on January 1, Lunar New Year celebrations start on the night before the first day of the new year.
Interestingly, China follows the Gregorian calendar for daily business, but still follows the Chinese calendar for important festivals, important dates such as wedding and ceremonies, and the Moon phases.
Although this holiday has commonly been called “Chinese New Year” in the West, China is not the only country to observe it.
Lunar New Year is the most celebrated and longest of all Asian festivals, and is observed by millions of people around the world.
A number of other countries in East Asia, including Vietnam, Korea, Japan, and the Philippines, hold their own new year celebrations at this time.
China’s Lunar New Year is known as the Spring Festival or Chūnjié in Mandarin, while Koreans call it Seollal and Vietnamese refer to it as Tết.
This holiday has ancient roots in China as an agricultural society. It was the occasion to celebrate the harvest and worship the gods and ask for good harvests in times to come.
How is Lunar New Year celebrated?
Tied to the lunar calendar, the holiday began as a time for feasting and to honor household and heavenly deities, as well as ancestors. The New Year typically begins with the first new moon that occurs between the end of January and spans the first 15 days of the first month of the lunar calendar, until the full moon arrives.
Each culture celebrates the Lunar New Year differently with various foods and traditions that symbolize prosperity, abundance and togetherness.
In preparation for the Lunar New Year, houses are thoroughly cleaned to rid them of inauspicious spirits, which might have collected during the old year. Cleaning is also meant to open space for good will and good luck.
Like many winter solstice celebrations around the world, the symbolic darkness of night is banished by the light of fireworks, lanterns, and candles.
In this period hundreds of man-made paper lanterns are hung in public areas, bringing good luck to the new year.
There are also dragon dances, performances, and festival parades with music and acrobatics, and the festivities continue for two weeks, finishing with a special lantern festival, which signals the end of the New Year celebration period.
Of course, much delicious food is made and served, including long noodles, symbolizing a long life.
Another popular recipe for New Year is Chinese Dumplings, symbolizing good luck and wealth. Families wrap them up and eat them as the clock strikes midnight.
Among Chinese cultures, fish is typically included as a last course of a New Year’s Eve meal for good luck. Not by chance, in the Chinese language, the pronunciation of “fish” is the same as that for the word “surplus” or “abundance.” Chinese New Year’s meals also feature foods like glutinous rice ball soup, moon-shaped rice cakes (New Year’s cake) and dumplings (Jiǎozi in Mandarin). Sometimes, a clean coin is tucked inside a dumpling for good luck.
Good Luck is also a common theme of the New Year, and many children receive “lucky money” in red envelopes, while sometimes offerings are made to temples.
Traditionally people clean their homes and open their door to let good luck enter.
According to tradition, no one should pick up a broom, in case you sweep the good luck for the New Year out of the door!
In 2023, we welcome the Year of the Rabbit, one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac.
The animal designations of the zodiac follow a 12-year cycle and are always used in the same sequence.
Those born in the Year of the Rabbit are said to be talented at many things, and they are affectionate people, often excelling at forming close relationships.
However, they also appreciate tranquility and seek out peace.
The traditional Chinese lunisolar year has 12 months and 353 to 355 days, or during a leap year, 13 months and 383 to 385 days.
As is ancient tradition, the Chinese zodiac attaches animal signs to each lunar year in a cycle of 12 years, and the animal designation changes at the start of the New Year.
On a broader scale, the Chinese lunisolar calendar counts its years according to the stem-branch system, that is a 60-year rotating name system also known as the Chinese sexagenary cycle.
By this, a year’s name actually contains two parts: the celestial stem and the terrestrial branch.
The celestial, or heavenly stem, is taken from a rotating list of 10 terms concerning the yin/yang forms of five elements.
The Stem (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water): jia, yi, bing, ding, wu, ji, geng, xin, ren, and gui.
On a broader scale, the Chinese lunisolar calendar counts its years according to the stem-branch system, which is a 60-year rotating name system also known as the Chinese sexagenary cycle. By this, a year’s name actually contains two parts: the celestial stem and the terrestrial branch.
The celestial, or heavenly stem, is taken from a rotating list of 10 terms concerning the yin/yang forms of five elements:
jia = yang wood
yi = yin wood
bing = yang fire
ding = yin fire
wu = yang earth
ji = yin earth
geng = yang metal
xin = yin metal
ren = yang water
gui = yin water
The terrestrial, or earthly, branch is taken from a rotating list of the 12 animal names of the Chinese zodiac:
zi = rat
chou = ox
yin = tiger
mao = rabbit
chen = dragon
si = snake
wu = horse
wei = sheep/goat
shen = monkey
you = rooster
xu = dog
hai – boar/pig
So, putting the stem and branch terms together, the first year in a 60-year cycle is called jia-zi (Year of the Rat) as jia is the celestial stem and zi (rat) is the terrestrial branch. The next year is yi-chou (Year of the Ox), and so on. The 11th year is jia-xu, until a new cycle starts over with jia-zi.
The year 2022 is slated to be the year of the water tiger. The water tiger comes up every 60 years. The water tiger is action-oriented and represents strength, clearing away evil and bravery.
So, which Chinese Zodiac sign are you?
Don’t worry, If you were born before the Chinese New Year began for the year listed, then you were born under the previous Chinese zodiac sign.
Ambitious and sincere, you can be generous with your money. Compatible with the dragon and the monkey, while your opposite is the horse.
1900, 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020
Ox or Buffalo (Chou)
A leader, you are bright, patient, and cheerful. Compatible with the snake and the rooster, while your opposite is the sheep.
1901, 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021
Forthright and sensitive, you possess great courage. You have the ability to be a strong leader capable of great sympathy. Compatible with the horse and the dog, while your opposite is the monkey.
1902, 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022
Rabbit or Hare (Mao)
Talented and affectionate, you are a seeker of tranquility. Compatible with the sheep and the pig, while your opposite is the rooster.
1903, 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023
Robust and passionate, your life is filled with complexity. Compatible with the monkey and the rat, while your opposite is the dog.
1904, 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024
Strong-willed and intense, you display great wisdom. Compatible with the rooster and the ox, while your opposite is the pig.
1905, 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025
Physically attractive and popular, you like the company of others. Compatible with the tiger and the dog, while your opposite is the rat.
1906, 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026
Sheep or Goat (Wei)
Aesthetic and stylish, you enjoy being a private person. Compatible with the pig and the rabbit, while your opposite is the ox.
1907, 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027
Persuasive, skillful, and intelligent, you strive to excel. Compatible with the dragon and the rat, while your opposite is the tiger.
1908, 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028
Seeking wisdom and truth, you have a pioneering spirit. Compatible with the snake and the ox, while your opposite is the rabbit.
1909, 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029
Generous and loyal, you have the ability to work well with others. Compatible with the horse and the tiger, while your opposite is the dragon.
1910, 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030
Pig or Boar (Hai)
Gallant and noble, your friends will remain at your side. Compatible with the rabbit and the sheep, while your opposite is the snake.
1911, 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031
Cultures celebrating Lunar New Year have different ways of greeting each other during the holiday.
In Mandarin, a common way to wish family and close friends a happy New Year is “Xīnnián hǎo,” meaning “New Year Goodness” or “Good New Year.
Another greeting is “Xīnnián kuàilè,” meaning, literally, “Happy New Year.”
Traditional greetings during Tết in Vietnam are “Chúc Mừng Năm Mới”, Happy New Year, and “Cung Chúc Tân Xuân”, gracious wishes of the new spring.
For Seollal, South Koreans commonly say “Saehae bok mani badeuseyo”, may you receive lots of luck in the new year, while North Koreans say “Saehaereul chuckhahabnida”, congratulations on the new year.
So, happy new year to all our Asian followers and not only! 😉
Images from web – Google Research