It has been celebrated in China for millennia and the Chinese New Year or ‘Lunar New Year’ is thought of as China's most important festival by many. In 2023, the celebration takes place just under one month following the New Year that passed on January 1 according to the Gregorian calendar.
Here’s what you should know about the Chinese Lunar New Year or ‘Spring Festival’ in 2023 including dates, what this year’s zodiac animal is, how it’s celebrated and how to say ‘Happy New Year’ in Mandarin and Cantonese.
When is Chinese New Year 2023?
Chinese New Year always takes place on the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar and this starts the day following the first new moon between January 21 and February 20. In 2023, the Chinese New Year took place on Sunday, January 22.
The celebration lasts for over two weeks in China but people mark the occasion similarly in other places like East Asia too.
What are the Zodiac animals and their meanings?
Rat - The first Zodiac sign in the Chinese cycle. People who were born in the Year of the Rat are said to be quick-witted, resourceful, and smart but lack courage. Due to their work ethic, however, they are thought to be wealthy and prosperous. Lucky colours: blue, gold, green. Recent years: 2020, 2008, 1996.
Ox - The second of the Zodiac signs, an Ox is said to have an honest personality. People born in the Year of the Ox are thought to be diligent, dependable, strong, and determined. Though find it difficult to communicate. Lucky colours: white, yellow, green. Recent years: 2021, 2009, 1997.
Tiger - Third among the animals in the Chinese Zodiac, people born in the Year of the Tiger are brave, competitive, unpredictable, and confident. Confident, charming and well liked they sometimes possess a stubborn personality too. Lucky colours: blue, grey, orange. Recent years: 2010, 1998, 1986.
Rabbit - Fourth of the 12 Chinese Zodiac animals, rabbits tend to be of a more gentle nature. Quiet, elegant, kind, and patient, rabbits have many positive characteristics but can also be known to be superficial. Lucky colours: pink, red, purple, blue. Recent years: 2011, 1999, 1987.
Dragon - Fifth in the order but widely seen as the most vital and powerful beast in the Chinese Zodiac. Hot-headed with a sharp tongue, people born in the Year of the Dragon are also said to be confident and intelligent, and natural leaders. Lucky colours: gold, silver, grey. Recent years: 2012, 2000, 1988.
Snake - Intelligent and wise, the sixth animal of the Chinese Zodiac is the most enigmatic. Goal-orientated and hate to fail, people born in the Year of the Snake are supposed to be the most intuitive and a symbol of wisdom. Lucky colours: black, red, yellow. Recent years: 2013, 2001, 1989.
Horse - People born in the Year of the Horse - the seventh animal of the Chinese Zodiac signs - are said to be active, animated and energetic. A lover of mass gatherings - sports events, live concerts, parties - horses crave the spotlight. Lucky colours: green, yellow. Recent years: 2014, 2002, 1990.
Goat - A thoughtful animal - and the eighth in order - people born in the Year of the Goat are generally thought of as being gentle, mild-mannered, shy, sympathetic and incredibly kind-hearted. Creative and tough under the surface. Lucky colours: brown, red, purple. Recent years: 2015, 2003, 1991.
Monkey - The ninth of 12 animals, monkeys are sharp, smart but also have a mischievous side to their personality. Thought to be masters of practical jokes, due to their playful nature, they are also fast learners and prefer urban life to a rural one. Lucky colours: white, blue, gold. Recent years: 2016, 2004, 1992.
Rooster - Always active, amusing, and popular within a crowd, roosters are talkative, outspoken, frank, honest, and loyal. The 10th animal in the Chinese order, roosters expect to be listened to and their achievement acknowledged. Lucky colours: gold, brown, yellow. Recent years: 2017, 2005, 1993.
Dog - Loyalty and honesty are two personality traits of those people born in the Year of the Dog. Kind, cautious, and prudent though communication is where they fall down, leading to others thinking they have a stubborn personality. Lucky colours: green, red, purple. Recent years: 2018, 2006, 1994.
Pig - The last of the Zodiac animals in the Chinese calendar, pigs are diligent, compassionate, and generous. One of their strengths is their ability to concentrate and forge ahead to achieve their goals, though they are easily fooled. Lucky colours: yellow, grey, brown, gold. Recent years: 2019, 2007, 1995.
What is the Zodiac animal this year, 2023?
Last year was the Year of the Tiger but this year it’s the Year of the Rabbit. There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, all associated with certain character traits, and the featured animals alternate on a yearly basis.
According to the Travel China Guide, for “Chinese people, the rabbit is a tame creature representing hope and life for a long time. It is tender and lovely.”
If you were born in the Year of the Rabbit (e.g., 1975) then you are said to be a kind, thoughtful and intelligent person. However, your generosity could be taken as weakness by others and you may be seen as overly cautious or even self-absorbed.
How is Chinese New Year celebrated?
Across China the Lunar New Year is celebrated with a variety of events like dragon or lion dances, imperial performances (such as an emperor’s wedding) or the wearing of traditional dress.
During this time you can find gifts wrapped in red packaging, red clothes and red decor placed all over the place. The BBC reports that adults will give children small red envelopes of money as well and these bestow good luck upon the recipient.
On New Year’s Eve families will celebrate with a dinner that takes place in the home allowing all the family members to connect, some Chinese expats living overseas will travel thousands of miles to join the occasion. After dinner the family will enjoy a tradition named ‘Shou Sui’ which sees everyone reminiscing over the year that just passed before launching fireworks at midnight.
How to wish someone a Happy New Year in Chinese?
If you want to wish someone a ‘Happy New Year’ and they’re from mainland China then you should use Mandarin, but if they’re from Hong Kong then it’s better you use Cantonese.
To wish someone a ‘Happy New Year’ you can say ‘Xīnnián hǎo’ (新年好), here are some phonetics to help you:
Cantonese - “sen - nin - haow”
Mandarin - “sheen - nyun - haow”