Year of the Rabbit: Chinese and Lunar New Year

Year of the Rabbit: Chinese and Lunar New Year

This January, you will hear celebrations of Lunar New Year, Chinese New Year, and the Year of the Rabbit. But what does it all mean? Here’s everything you need to know, and how to celebrate.

While many of us celebrated the New Year on December 31st, for many members of our multicultural community, Lunar New Year is the time to celebrate what the next 12 months will have in store.

Celebrated by an estimated 2 billion people worldwide, Lunar New Year (January 22, in 2023) is a time to celebrate the lunar calendar through food, rituals, traditions, and celebrations.

But what is Lunar New Year all about? And what does the Year of the Rabbit (or for Vietnamese communities, the Year of the Cat) have in store for 2023? 


Year of the Rabbit Chinese New Year

Vigilant, witty, quick-minded and ingenious.

Those are some of the words used to describe this year’s Chinese Zodiac animal.

Can you guess what animal it is?

As we farewell the Year of the Tiger, millions of people around the world are preparing to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit.

When is Lunar New Year?

Celebrated in China for thousands of years, Lunar New Year is based on a calendar that uses both the lunar (cycles of the Moon) and solar (Earth’s annual orbit around the Sun) to determine dates.

This means that the date of Lunar New Year varies from year to year because it follows the cycle of the moon.

In 2023, January 22 marks the beginning of Lunar New Year.

The celebration will end on February 5, with the Lantern Festival.
Year of the Rabbit: Chinese and Lunar New Year

Is Lunar New Year the same as Chinese New Year?

Lunar New Year is celebrated in many other Asian countries, including Vietnam, the Koreas, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. Although some traditions are shared, others are unique to each country’s cultural identity.
Year of the Rabbit: Chinese and Lunar New Year
To the Vietnamese, for example, this Lunar New Year will welcome the Year of the Cat.

To Chinese, Koreans, Taiwanese and those living in Hong Kong, the year is the Year of the Rabbit.

Koreans and Vietnamese also revel in new year festivities as they celebrate Seollal and Tết, respectively.

While customs, rituals and the length of celebrations vary, one thing stays true: honouring a fresh start.

What animal am I?

There are 12 animals following a repeating, 12-year cycle and they go by the following order:

Rat, ox/buffalo, tiger, rabbit/cat, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

The animals of the Chinese zodiac symbolise a deep connection with that nation’s ancient cultural heritage, each one holding a unique place in Chinese history, mythology and customs.

Find out which animal you are below.

What animal am I?

There are 12 animals following a repeating, 12-year cycle and they go by the following order:

Rat, ox/buffalo, tiger, rabbit/cat, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

The animals of the Chinese zodiac symbolise a deep connection with that nation’s ancient cultural heritage, each one holding a unique place in Chinese history, mythology and customs.

Find out which animal you are below.

Chinese Zodiac Sign

Years

Rat

…1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020…

Ox

…1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021…

Tiger

…1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022…

Rabbit

… 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023 …

Dragon

… 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024 …

Snake

… 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025 …

Horse

… 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026 …

Goat

… 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027 …

Monkey

… 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028 …

Rooster

… 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029 …

Dog

… 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030 …

Pig

… 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031 …

What do people eat at this time?

It’s not just the decorations that require thorough planning.

A days-long feast is also carefully curated.

For several days — starting on their New Year’s Eve — people indulge in food with symbolic meaning, either based on appearance or word association.

Dumplings and spring rolls, for instance, represent wealth because they are thought to resemble silver ingots and gold bars.

Year of the Rabbit: Chinese and Lunar New Year

Families and friends often come together to dive into a banquet.(Supplied: Tsai Ming Lin and Wei-Chen Chang)

One dish that you will traditionally find on Lunar New Year is steamed fish.

Per custom, you are supposed to eat the middle part of the fish and leave the head and the tail for the following day, the first day of the new year.

This signifies the previous year’s surplus flowing into the new year and bringing more fortune.

Tangerines and oranges are also symbols of good luck as the pronunciation of their Chinese root words sound like the Chinese word for success.

How is Lunar New Year celebrated?

Lion and dragon dance performances, temple fairs, flower market shopping are just a few of the rich, vibrant activities you can expect to see.

Lion Dance

Lion and dragon dancers parade the streets to ward off evil spirits and invite luck, while keeping onlookers entertained.

In some cities, the season sees a dazzling display of fireworks, along with bursts of firecrackers, to mark the special occasion.

Homes and streets are often decked out with red decorations, such as banners, lanterns and ornaments.

It is customary to visit temples to pray for a great year and good fortune while burning incense and offering food to ancestors.

Red envelopes filled with an auspicious amount are handed to the young and unmarried from their grandparents, parents and married relatives.

Red envelopes for Lunar New Year
Red envelopes filled with an auspicious amount are handed to the young and unmarried

Parents and grandparents commonly gift younger relatives with red envelopes containing an amount of money.

Koreans and Vietnamese also have a similar practice, where the elderly would give their children red packets.

What is the Chinese Zodiac?

The lunisolar calendar follows a 12-year cycle that is represented by the Chinese Zodiac, each with its own animal. The Zodiac assigns animal signs based on birth year, which they attribute with personal attributes and premonitions for the new year. The year 2023 falls to the Year of the Rabbit.

The origin story in Chinese folklore goes back to an Emperor who wants 12 animal guards, who raced for the highest order. This was won by a rat (first year). We are now in the fourth animal phase on the Zodiac calendar – the rabbit.

While the Zodiac animals are mostly the same across all cultures that celebrate the holiday, there is one notable difference: in Vietnamese tradition, the fourth animal is the cat, not the rabbit. That means 2023 is both the Year of the Rabbit and the Year of the Cat.

What does Year of the Rabbit mean?

According to the Chinese Zodiac, those born in the Year of the Rabbit are seen as gentle, optimistic, approachable, elegant, and noble.

In Chinese culture, rabbits represent hope, tenderness, and long life. There are also certain signs of ‘luck’ for those born in the Year of the Rabbit:

  • Lucky numbers: 3, 4 and 9.
  • Lucky colours: red, pink, purple and blue.
  • It is associated with those born in the following years: 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011 and 2023.

Vietnamese culture describes people born in the Year of the Cat as clever, confident, driven and flexible in their ways of thinking.

 

Year of the Rabbit: Chinese and Lunar New Year
Year of the Rabbit: Chinese and Lunar New Year

 


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Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Chris Phutully, Wikimedia Commons / Andrew Milligan sumo, WIkimedia Commons / Myrabella, Pixabay / Ida Huang, Pixabay / hartono subagio

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