Which countries celebrate Lunar New Year and what is the animal for 2023?

The popular festival marks a time of feasting, cleaning and celebrating with family

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The Lunar New Year begins on Sunday and countries around the world are set to celebrate. It is also commonly referred to as Chinese New Year, although the holiday is celebrated in many East Asian countries, as well as Asian communities throughout the world. It typically lasts 15 days, meaning this year's occasion will go on until February 1, before preparations begin for the Lantern Festival on February 5.

What is Lunar New Year?

Lunar New Year marks the beginning of a calendar year that bases its months on moon cycles. The tradition dates as far back as the 14th century BC, when the Shang Dynasty was in power, and the festival typically lands some time between the end of January and mid-February.

Last year, Lunar New Year fell on February 1.

Parades, dance and firecrackers are a huge part of Lunar New Year celebrations. Reuters

However, it’s worth noting that Lunar New Year isn’t a one-day affair, it’s an action-packed holiday celebrated over 15 days. During this time, houses are cleaned, decorations put up, feasts and family dinners organised, debts cleared and firecrackers let off. There are also commonly parades and other festivities to watch or be a part of.

In China, there are certain dishes that are eaten specifically with the intention of bringing luck and prosperity to the coming year – from longevity noodles to Peking duck.

The celebrations usually culminate on the date of the full moon with a lantern festival, also known as the Shangyuan Festival.

It’s celebrated in many countries – not only China

Peking duck, a popular dish during Lunar New Year festivities. Photo: Hutong

Within China, the Lunar New Year is synonymous with Chinese New Year or Spring Festival.

However, many neighbouring countries in Asia have developed their own New Year celebrations, influenced by the Chinese calendar.

For example, Vietnam celebrates Tet Nguyen Dan, also known as Tet; while Korea celebrates Seollal, which lasts for three days instead of 15.

In Mongolia, the Lunar New Year is also called Tsagaan Sar, and is usually the first celebration of the year. In Indonesia, Chinese New Year is known as Imlek and has become a popular holiday.

Tibet’s New Year celebrations, known as the Losar Festival, are usually not held on the same date as China’s Lunar New Year (although it isn’t usually far off). This year, Losar begins on March 3.

Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines also mark the occasion at the same time as Chinese New Year, as do many other countries that have a high number of Chinese residents.

Which animal is associated with this year?

Each Chinese New Year is associated with an animal according to the Chinese Zodiac calendar, which features 12 animals including the tiger (2022’s animal), rat, dragon, horse, monkey and rooster.

This year is the Year of the Rabbit. The calendar is based on a 12-year cycle, with previous rabbit years falling in 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975 and so on. According to superstition, those born during the Year of the Rabbit are gentle, quiet, skilful, kind, patient and responsible.

Updated: January 19, 2023, 10:51 AM