Celebrating the Lunar New Year

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.

Zodiac Animals
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.

Lunar New Year stamps issued by USPS in 2006

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

Patricia R. Antolino

My ancestors live in my body
Each cell remembers them
I hear their voices and feel their hearts beating with mine

I am an Italian immigrant,
I sell vacuums, insurance, girdles, vinegar, candy and vegetables
I am a barber, own laundromats, a jewelry store and a bar
I am a housewife, a mother, a phone operator, a secretary and a waitress
I am a foreman, a war veteran, an elevator operator and a pimp
I am a peasant, a pharmacist, a dress designer and a painter
I am a singer, a piano player and a hat checker
I scrub floors, wash dishes, make beds, mend clothes and prepare meals

I am the oldest, youngest and those not born
I have brown eyes and blue, full lips and thick dark hair
I am short, handsome, charismatic and beautiful
My voice is almost always raised with passion
I laugh loudly, talk with my hands, cry easily and wail at funerals
I believe in family and working hard
I am uneducated and a college graduate

I am child-like, depressed, unaware and angry
I am humiliated, tortured, beaten and raped
I keep secrets, hide my eyes and am loyal to the family code of silence
I am old before my time, my ambitions and dreams crushed
I am insane, weak and my body is sick
I have a bad heart, arthritis, back pain, cancer and diabetes
I hide my wisdom, make myself small and put myself behind my father,
husband and son
I hold grudges, conjure spells, give the evil eye and drop oil in water

I am strong, athletic and determined
I sing from my soul, dance with abandon and celebrate life
I am quick to laugh, easily smile and tell silly jokes
I help my friends, family and community gracefully, serving with joy
I am creative, imaginative and sensitive
I am intuitive and have a strong connection and deep faith in God
I persevere when times are hard, making gold where there was nothing
I look at life with wonder, awe and delight

I am baptized and confirmed
I am Catholic and Jehovah Witness
I go to confession on Saturdays and church on Sundays
I believe in God and play bingo
I light candles to the Virgin and pray the rosary every day

I smoke cigars and drink anisette
I bake bread and cakes
Make fresh pasta and soups
I wear old clothes, alligator shoes, Italian suits, housedresses and aprons
I am married, single, divorced and widowed
I marry when I am young and when I am old
I marry for love, security and because it is the right thing to do
I marry a bootlegger, an alcoholic, a tile layer and a womanizer
I miscarry, have abortions, take in foster children, bear a Down child and
father 27 children

I died dancing at a wedding
Singing Italian songs in the bathroom
Putting a gun in my mouth
Visiting my home land and in childbirth
I died from breast cancer, heart attack and old age
I died from MS, a nurse’s mistake, a motorcycle accident and a stroke
I died young and I died old

I bless all those who came before me
Paving the way for me to come in
For sharing their love and wisdom in form and out
Who, as I hear their whispers, encourage me
To forgive and love
To keep my heart open through the hardest of times so love may prevail
To them, I say thank you

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.

10 Replies to “Celebrating the Lunar New Year”


  2. What delight to wake up to this OLLCONNECTS bounty! The designs and bright colours of the illustrations sparkle, and weave so well with the written words …Kun Shi’s words enlighten us joyfully.
    Reading Patricia’s poem takes my breath away, I am transported to other realms, and come back to savour again and again….

  3. What a delight to read my Lunar New Year contribution with help from the OLLI Connects editor Theresa. I am honored to be connected here with poet Patricia, and hope to meet her soon. Happy Lunar New Year to everyone!! Kun

    1. Having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for quite some time, attending the Lunar New Year celebration in Chinatown was always a wonder … the colors, the festivities, the delicious smells, the joy on everyone’s face. What a gift that you included the meaning and purpose to the 15 days … and the dates for the celebrations here in Tampa. Thank you.

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