The Lunar New Year tradition is observed in China and several Asian countries, and among Chinese Americans. It normally arrives in late January or early February based on the lunar calendar. In 2023 the Lunar New Year’s Day falls on January 22nd.
Lunar New Year Celebration
The Lunar New Year (Xinnian in Chinese) is often called Spring Festival (Chunjie), because it is the beginning of the spring season on the lunar calendar. It is called Seollal in Korean and Tết in Vietnamese.
The celebration begins on the New Year’s Eve (January 21st this year), when families gather for a banquet and entertainment. Auspicious red paper cut-outs and signs are decorated on walls and windows. Firecrackers and fireworks are popular, though restricted in large cities. Over the following days, people visit their relatives, enjoy more food and entertainment, and go to temple fairs. There is a week-long public holiday, but traditionally the festival lasts 15 days till the Lantern Festival (February 5th this year).
For more information about the Chinese Lunar New Year, view this short video produced by the History Channel.
As Covid restrictions are lifted in China now, hundreds of millions of Chinese will soon travel for family gatherings during this Lunar New Year festival season. I hope the Covid-19 infection rate will peak by then and pray for the safety and health of those travelers.
Based on the Chinese zodiac, 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit. The Rabbit is the fourth of the twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac, as shown on the stamps below. As a symbol of peace and prosperity in Chinese culture, the Year of the Rabbit is predicted to be a year of hope. Previous years of the Rabbit include 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, 1951, and 1939. Although the Rabbit is a good sign, the Chinese believe that, if you were born in those years, you may encounter more challenges this year. Maybe this is the yin-yang philosophy at work.
Reflection on Multiculturalism
After living in Ohio and Florida for over three decades, I have experienced various festivals of Chinese/Asian Americans and other groups. As a cultural anthropologist, I always enjoy the rich cultural and ethnic diversity of my adopted country.
Multiculturalism has been held as an ideal component of our society, and I hope the trend will continue. Respecting differences while maintaining unity is our national strength. We should work together to improve cross-cultural understanding in order to make the world a better place for future generations. That is why I am interested in volunteering for OLLI-USF, the JCC Multicultural Café – A Taste of China, ReDefiners World Languages, and Asian Heritage Festival in Tampa.
Later this month, several celebration events are scheduled in Tampa. First, the Tampa Jewish Community Center, in partnership with OLLI-USF, will host a Lunar New Year event as part of its Multicultural Café series on January 18th. In the following weekend (January 21st and 22nd), two more events will be hosted by the Chinese American groups in Tampa Bay. (More information about these events is provided at the end of this article.)
May the Year of the Rabbit bring peace and prosperity to all!
The following poem illustrates the spirit of multiculturalism in expressing the human desire to celebrate renewal and light at the conclusion of winter holiday festivals. Written for New Year 2023, the author’s words and images echo our universal reliance on the traditions of our ancestors in marking the passage of one year to the next. — Editor
New Year Patricia R. Antolino Though the days always follow Swiftly Deftly From one to another We say… It’s a new year So close your eyes The eyes that Have seen so much Blue skies Dark days New growth Frayed edges Think now… This new moment And each new moment That comes And vision your dream What new do you call in What light is drawn To your journey What freshness comes Through your window Call the Ancestors Offer a prayer Speak your yearning To Guides and Guardians Who stand so close Who want your words Who want to serve Who will wrap you In ancient wisdom Ancient knowing They will whisper softly This is your time What do you want What is your desire What feels true What are your dreams Let’s awaken them Awaken you Let the world be yours Even with small steps Even with what ifs Even with gloom Shifting Aligning Holding Grounding Now Pause Take a beat Give thanks Raise your eyes Your arms Your heart Step forward Look up Reach out With heart and hands Even with tears Gather your faith Your strength Your trust Your hope Move to this holy place Like a soft kiss Reach and hold Let your heart Hold compassion Your mind will Your throat truth Your belly intent Your hands kindness Your eyes awe Call to you what you need And what needs you Weave new beginnings Create interconnection A whole of beauty And the Sacred
Three events in Tampa to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year: • January 18th (Wednesday): Multicultural Café - A Taste of China at 5:00-6:30pm, Tampa JCC and OLLI-USF (registration required for food and performance; for registration, scan the QR code on the flyer or contact JCC’s Pnina Levermore at 813-291-2253) • January 21st (Saturday): Lunar New Year Show starting at 2pm, Gaither High School Auditorium (admission $10, free for children under 12; hosted by CAAT - Chinese American Association of Tampa) • January 22nd (Sunday): Chinese Lunar New Year Celebration at noon to 3pm, Waterworks Park (event is free; hosted by SACA - Suncoast Association of Chinese Americans)
Kun Shi holds a Masters Degree in cultural anthropology from The Ohio State University. He worked as a program evaluator for an Ohio state agency between 1999 and 2005 and was program director at the OSU K-12 Chinese Flagship Program from 2006-2010 and for USF World from 2010-2019. He has taught OLLI classes since 2011 and was awarded the Faculty Roll of Honor in 2016. He is a co-coordinator of the OLLI-USF China SIG.
Patricia R. Antolino was born and raised in the Bronx in the 1950s. A self-avowed hippie, she couldn’t have asked for a better time to grow up. The civil rights movement, protests against the Vietnam war, and the women’s movement kept her engaged and solidified her desire to bring peace and remembrance of our connection to each other. After she retired, she moved to Tampa where she considered herself lucky to connect with Marilyn Myerson’s Imaginative Writing Group, and became a member of her “Crew.” Patricia’s lifelong desire is to bring hope, joy, and a smile to those she meets and through the stories she shares.