An estimated two billion people celebrate the Lunar New Year, which corresponds to the first new moon of the lunar calendar that occurs between late January to early February.
For many around the world, the first of January marks the beginning of the new year in accordance with the western Gregorian calendar.
But while China has adopted the same timeline for official and business purposes, the traditional lunar calendar remains widely celebrated within the country. It is even growing in popularity in other parts of the world, and not just in countries where there's a significant presence of the centuries-old Chinese diaspora.
Today, an estimated two billion people celebrate the Lunar New Year mostly in East Asia, with fireworks and light shows to say goodbye to the past year and ward off the bad, and welcome a new and auspicious year.
The beginning of the Lunar New Year changes each year as it is based on a lunisolar calendar, meaning the calendar is built on the phases of the moon — with 12 phases of approximately 29 days — ending up in an annual cycle of around 354 days.
The first day of the lunar year corresponds to the first new moon of the lunar calendar, which occurs sometime in late January to early February.
When is Lunar New Year 2023?
Lunar New Year in 2023 starts on January 22.
How long is Lunar New Year celebration?
Lunar New Year lasts for several days. This year, it starts on January 22, when the new moon emerges, and ends on February 5, the day of the full moon.
The first day of Lunar New Year is called the Spring Festival, and the final day is the Lantern Festival.
IN PICTURES: Ushering in the Lunar New Year
What is the animal symbol for the Lunar New Year 2023?
Lunar New Year 2023 is represented by the Water Rabbit.
The lunar calendar follows a 12-year cycle and each year is represented by an animal based on the Chinese Zodiac.
The order of the Chinese Zodiac according to the animal symbol is as follows:
Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig.
Each 12-year cycle also follows the five elements of nature arranged in order: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water
The last rabbit year, for example, was in 2011. And it was called a Metal Rabbit. But the next Water Rabbit year will not occur until 60 years after or in 2083.
Last year, 2022, was the Year of the Water Tiger, while 2020 was the Year of the Rat, which was considered as inauspicious and also coincided with the emergence of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.
Who celebrates Lunar New Year?
Lunar New Year is celebrated throughout many East Asian cultures, most notably, China.
In China, the period between the Spring and Lantern Festivals is an occasion for families to visit their hometowns, ushering in the busiest time of the year for transport with hundreds of millions of people travelling in and outside of the country.
Other countries with major Lunar New Year celebrations are: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam, owing to the presence of a significance Chinese population.
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For instance, a fifth of Malaysia's 34 million population are Chinese, and intermarriages with Malays are also common, thus the Lunar New Year is widely celebrated and is a public holiday.
In the Philippines, the celebration is centred in the Binondo district of Manila, the oldest Chinatown in the world.
Other Chinatowns around the world also attract Lunar New Year visitors, including New York's three Chinatowns in Manhattan, Sunset Park in Brooklyn and Flushing in Queens.
What is the significance of the rabbit year?
The rabbit is commonly associated with longevity, peace, and prosperity in Chinese culture.
The upcoming Year of the Rabbit could also mean "relaxation, fluidity, quietness and contemplation", according to the Japan Times.
People who are born during the rabbit year are also seen as "gentle, quiet, tame, tender and kind", but also "quick and clever" at adapting to nature.
What traditions are celebrated during the Lunar New Year?
Regardless of the changing date of the celebration, each culture that celebrates the Lunar New Year has lasting customs and traditions that they usually follow.
On the night leading to the Spring Festival, people, mostly wearing clothes in the red colour, gather for family reunions and dinners, giving red envelopes containing monetary gifts or "good luck money", staying up until midnight and then setting off firecrackers and fireworks.
On the night of the Lantern Festival, streets are decorated with colourful lanterns. People also eat sweet rice balls called tangyuan, watch dragon and lion dances and set off fireworks while admiring the full moon.
Certain dishes are also eaten during Lunar Near Year to bring good luck for the coming year. Chinese dumplings and fish symbolise wealth and more prosperity. Noodles represent happiness and longevity, while meatballs mean family unity.
What are the usual greetings for the Lunar New Year?
Xīn Nián Hǎo - Happy Chinese New Year
Xīn Nián Kuài Lè - Happy New Year
Kung Hei/Gong Hei Fat Choi - Happiness and prosperity
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