Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year, is celebrated over several days and marks the start of the next 12 months on the traditional lunisolar calendar.

The occasion is observed by many people of Chinese descent and is also commemorated in other Asian countries, including South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.

Here, Sky News takes a look at this year’s celebrations – and how important they are.

What is this year’s zodiac animal?

Closing the year of the Water Tiger, considered a symbol of strength, bravery and exorcism of evils, the Lunar New Year 2023 should welcome the Year of the Rabbit.

The rabbit is the fourth animal in the zodiac sequence of 12, and is considered the luckiest.

People born in the year of the Rabbit are believed to be vigilant, witty, quick-witted and resourceful.

The animal is also said to signify mercy, elegance and beauty.

Picture:
Fireworks are seen behind a neon bunny celebrating the Spring Festival. Photo: AP

In the Chinese theory of the five elements, each sign of the zodiac is believed to have one of the five elements: metal, wood, water, fire or earth.

These elements rotate for each year the sign falls on, meaning they come every 60 years.

This year it’s the Water Rabbit, who last came in 1903 and 1963.

There are five types of rabbits, each with different characteristics – and those associated with the Water Rabbit suggest that believers in the Chinese lunisolar calendar who were born in these years might not be entirely satisfied.

The traits associated with each of the rabbits are:

  • Water Rabbit: Gentle and friendly, but has a weak state of mind
  • Wood Rabbit: Intelligent and quick-witted, but selfish
  • Fire Rabbit: Open-minded, intelligent and flexible
  • Earth Rabbit: Simple, ambitious and hardworking
  • Metal Rabbit: Kind, lively and enthusiastic
Lunar New Year decorations set up in the Mall of Kuala Lumpur.  Photo: AP
Picture:
Lunar New Year decorations set up in the Mall of Kuala Lumpur. Photo: AP

When is Lunar New Year 2023?

The Year of the Tiger ends on January 21 and the Year of the Rabbit begins the next day, January 22.

How was the Chinese New Year celebrated?

One of the most important holidays in the Chinese calendar, the Lunar New Year kicks off a 15-day festival of celebrations in China and among Chinese communities around the world.

Commonly known in China as the Spring Festival, people in the country are given seven consecutive days off each year to mark the occasion.

During this period, there are a number of traditions.

The Lion Dance is a traditional dance in Chinese culture.  Photo: AP
Picture:
The Lion Dance is a traditional dance in Chinese culture. Photo: AP

The festivities begin with a lion dance, in which performers imitate the movements of a lion in lion costume – the animal symbolizing power, wisdom and superiority.

The performers move to the beats of drums, cymbals and gongs. Loud sounds are meant to scare away evil spirits and welcome the lion to bring good fortune.

A dragon dance is the highlight of the celebration in many areas, as the dragon is a symbol of good fortune.

A Taiwanese woman lights a candle to mark the New Year.  Photo: AP
Picture:
A Taiwanese woman lights a candle to mark the New Year. Photo: AP

Other traditions include people who carefully clean their homes to rid the household of bad luck.

Some eat specially prepared foods on certain days during the celebrations, which are also believed to bring good luck.

Lucky foods to eat during Chinese New Year.  Photo: iStock
Picture:
Lucky foods to eat during Chinese New Year. Photo: iStock

They include dumplings, which are often eaten on the eve of Chinese New Year and symbolize wealth, and sweet rice dumplings – a symbol of family unity.

Nagasaki Lantern Festival in Japan.  Photo: AP
Picture:
Nagasaki Lantern Festival in Japan. Photo: AP

The final event of the celebration is called the Lantern Festival, during which people hang luminous lanterns in temples or carry them in parades.

China celebrates the Lunar New Year with molten iron fireworks.  Photo: AP
Picture:
China celebrates the Lunar New Year with molten iron fireworks. Photo: AP

The festival also involves people lighting candles while praying in the temples.

Fireworks take place and feature the folk art of Datiehua – which sees burning iron water sprayed to form a firework display. The art originated in the Song Dynasty and is now part of cultural heritage across the country.

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