Lunar New Year Begins

Posted by on Jan 26, 2023 in People and Culture, Stuff You Should Know

Happy New Year! Lunar New Year–also known as the Spring Festival–began on January 22, 2023. The Lunar New Year represents renewal, as well as the transition from winter to spring, and is important in many Asian cultures and communities. Here, btw takes a closer look at the origins, significance, and traditions surrounding this holiday, as well as at the growing movement to officially recognize it here in the United States. 

What Is Lunar New Year? 

The 2023 Lunar New Year marks the end of the Year of the Tiger and begins the Year of the Rabbit. What does that mean? The Chinese lunar calendar links each year with one of twelve animals. After twelve years, the cycle of animals repeats. The rabbit–which is the fourth animal in the cycle–symbolizes grace, beauty, mercy, and good luck. The rabbit also has a peaceful nature, so this year is hoped to be all about peace, relaxation, and quietness. People born this year may be peace-loving as well. Rabbits symbolize diplomacy, intelligence, and hard work.  

If you have seen past Lunar New Year celebrations, you know that the holiday often is celebrated with parades and fireworks. The colors red and gold are often associated with this holiday as well, because of an old legend that an underground monster named Nian, or “year,” was afraid of bright colors, noises, and lights. These things helped to keep him away. Gold is also a symbol of good fortune. The New Year season ends with the Lantern Festival, which includes paper lanterns and Chinese treats. This year, the Lantern Festival will fall on February 5, 2023, the first full moon of the year–which is the end of the first lunar cycle.  

Who Celebrates? 

China is not the only Asian country that uses both a solar calendar and a lunar calendar. How Lunar New Year is honored varies from culture to culture. In Korea, for example, the New Year begins with gift giving and a special meal. In Vietnam, 2023 will be the year of the cat instead of the rabbit.  

Lunar New Year is not an official national holiday in the United States. But it is currently celebrated in many California communities. California is home to 30 percent of the nation’s 22 million Asian American population. In September 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom made Lunar New Year a statewide holiday. But it is not a paid holiday for state employees. Even so, Manjusha Kulkarni of the Los Angeles AAPI Equity Alliance says that recognizing this holiday helps celebrate the Asian American and Pacific Island (AAPI) community that has seen increased discrimination in the last few years.  

New York City has given students the day off from school for Lunar New Year since 2015. New York Rep. Grace Meng introduced legislation to make Lunar New Year a federal holiday in 2022 but was unsuccessful. She plans to re-introduce her bill to Congress again this year.  

Dig Deeper Use Internet resources to find out if Lunar New Year celebrations and events are happening in your area. Create a list of these events to share with your classmates.