Lunar New Year: What is it, when is it and how do people celebrate?

More than 1 billion people around the world will be celebrating the Lunar New Year on Sunday.

More commonly referred to as Chinese New Year, the celebration traditionally includes family reunions and huge feasts.

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What is the Lunar New Year and what will people be doing to celebrate it? Here’s a look at the Lunar New Year.

What is the Lunar New Year?

There are a lot of backstories that explain the origins of the Lunar New Year, but one of the most often told involves a beast, human victims and the color red.

According to the legend, a beast called Nian roamed the land hundreds of years ago, coming to villages each spring looking for people to attack.

Villagers discovered that the monster was scared away by loud noises and, for some reason, the color red. In an effort to keep Nian at bay, villagers began to use firecrackers and red paper to frighten him off.

The yearly efforts to keep Nian away eventually grew into a spring festival that celebrated the villagers’ hopes for a good harvest and a good new year. While there are religious elements to the festivities, it is largely a secular celebration.

Food is central to the celebration and is often offered on altars to honor ancestors. According to, “Among Chinese cultures, fish is typically included as a last course of a New Year’s Eve meal for good luck. … 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.”

When is Lunar New Year?

The date of the Lunar New Year is determined by the phases of the moon. The holiday begins during the second new moon after the winter solstice. This year it is celebrated on Jan. 22.

What does Year of the Rabbit mean?

Each Lunar New Year is assigned an animal representative. There is a 12-year cycle with the animals chosen from the Chinese zodiac system.

The zodiac animal is a rabbit for the year 2023. According to, people born in years of the Rabbit, their “kindness may make them seem soft and weak. In truth, the Rabbit’s quiet personality hides their confidence and strength. They are steadily moving towards their goal, no matter what negativity the others give them.

“With their good reasoning skills and attention to detail, they make great scholars. They are socializers with an attractive aura. However, they find it hard to open up to others and often turn to escapism.

“A plain and routine life is not their style. Though conservative and careful in their actions, they need surprises every so often to spice things up.”

The website goes on to say that:

“Men born in the Rabbit year are extraordinarily polite and do whatever they can to avoid conflicts. They have control over themselves and are sometimes conservative. They may seem to be a yes-man, but they have a bottom line that they won’t cross.

“These men like organizing and decorating, and often help their wives with chores. But that doesn’t mean they actually like being responsible for the home. Though a great friend, they don’t like becoming too close to someone.

“Women born in the Rabbit year love being social. They are thoughtful and treat everyone politely. They are very conscious of their public image and hate violence and arguments.

“In love, they are very extreme. There’s a clear difference between who they love and who they don’t. And they rarely pass that line. But if they love someone, they’ll put everything into the relationship. But the deeper they go, the more hurt they can get. These Rabbits are more insecure than other zodiacs and need to be reassured often.”

Previous years of the rabbit included 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975 and 1963.

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