Year of the Black Water Rabbit – Storytelling for Everyone

Lunar New Year 2023

On January 22nd 2023, the Lunar New Year of the Rabbit bounds into action. All Rabbit years are believed to bring happiness and good luck, but this is no ordinary Rabbit year, for 2023 is the year of the Black Water Rabbit—a specially gifted, creative Rabbit that has not been seen since 1963.

After the chaos and tumult of the departing Year of the Tiger, Water Rabbit energy promises to restore peace and harmony and shower the world with a myriad of opportunities. But will you benefit from the Rabbit’s generosity? The Year of the Rabbit might bring hope and prosperity your way—as well as a few surprises.

This is quite different than last year’s Tiger year. Think of it this way: “Tigers can take on anything and bring courage, a strong moral code and responsiveness,” says Ingress. “Whereas this year, we can anticipate more diplomacy or more cautious approaches on the world stage and for individuals.”

The Meaning of Chinese New Year’s customs

Chinese New Year is the most widely celebrated Chinese holiday across the globe. This year, it falls on Jan. 22, 2023, and will begin the Year of the Rabbit. “Different regional cultures celebrate through distinct activities and food,” says Jenny Leung, executive director of the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco. “For example, people in northern China eat dumplings on Lunar New Year’s Eve, while people in southern China prepare rice cakes, with the meaning of ‘climbing higher in the new year.’” 

As a holiday that goes back thousands of years, there are a wide variety of Chinese New Year traditions that have been passed down. Some are based on myth, some on symbolism, some on superstitions, and some on wordplay. Each individual may choose to celebrate a little differently based on preferences, beliefs, and location, but almost everyone spends time with family and eats Chinese New Year food.  

Chinese New Year is also referred to as Lunar New Year, a term that includes other cultures that celebrate the start of the new year using the same calendar system. In China, it’s also known as Spring Festival. “Lunar New Year celebrates the first days of spring on the lunar calendar,” says Leung. “Historically, celebrating Lunar New Year in China was meant to pray for good blessings on farming in the new year—hence, worshiping ancestors has always been a critical component.”

Clean to prepare for the new year

Each year is seen as a fresh, new beginning, so starting it off with a clean house is important. Giannina Ong, editor-in-chief of Mochi Magazine, the longest-running online publication for Asian American women, advises that the timing of your cleanup is crucial. “Leading up to the New Year, you should clean as much as possible to clear out the bad luck and any leftover ill feelings from the previous year,” she says.

Decorate to invite good fortune

In terms of decoration, Ong says “everything is red because a fire sign symbolizes new life and prosperity.” The origins of red’s lucky properties may stem from a legend about a beast named Nian (an approximate homophone for the Chinese word for year), who appeared on New Year’s Eve to wreak havoc. People figured out that Nian was afraid of the color red, and to this day, people hang red lanterns, couplets written on red paper and the character fu (meaning good fortune) on red paper.

That character is usually hung upside down—the word for turning something upside down, or pouring, also sounds like the word for arriving, so an upside-down fu symbol invites good luck to arrive. Flowers and kumquat fruit trees are also symbolic of prosperity, so after cleaning, you can bring some blossoms into your house for extra good luck. In addition to these Chinese New Year traditions, check out these tips from feng shui experts to keep the good vibes going all year long.

Visit family

Family is the cornerstone of Chinese life, so naturally one would aim to start each new year in the company of their loved ones. In China, the Spring Festival comes with a one-week vacation. People across the country flock to their families in what is often called “the world’s largest human migration.” Leung explains that “similar to Thanksgiving and Christmas, Chinese New Year is also a holiday for people to get together with family members, to celebrate the spring and the start of the new year.”

Eat delicious and auspicious food

One of the most popular Chinese New Year traditions is the food. Who doesn’t love an excuse to eat a festive meal? These dishes also have special symbolism attached to them. “On both birthdays and Lunar New Year, we make sure to eat long noodles,” says Ong. “You can’t break them while cooking or cut them while eating either, because the length of the noodles is a symbol of longevity. So get slurpy!”

In addition to these long-life noodles, spring rolls (shaped like gold bars) and dumplings (which resemble silver ingots, or boat-shaped blocks) are eaten for prosperity, and a number of other foods are eaten because of how their names sound. For example, , the word for fish in Mandarin, sounds like the word for surplus. Fish for Chinese New Year dinner is most often prepared steamed and whole. Don’t worry if you can’t finish it—leaving a little left over further enhances one’s surplus. In other parts of the world, these are the New Year’s Eve foods believed to bring good luck.



8 Chinese New Year Traditions, Explained

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