Breaking News
More () »

Lunar New Year: What is it and how to celebrate it

2023 is the year of the rabbit. In Vietnamese culture, it is often celebrated as the year of the cat.

ST. LOUIS — Sunday, Jan. 22 marks the start of Lunar New Year, a multi-day celebration that signals the arrival of spring in many Asian cultures.

Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year, and called the Spring Festival in China, is celebrated every year based on the lunar calendar,  according to History.com.

Lunar New Year usually begins with the first new moon that begins near the end of January, and lasts 15 days until the next full moon. 

The Zodiac Animals

Lunar New Year is associated with one of 12 zodiac animals, according to History.com. 

Each lunar year is represented by one of the following:

  • The rat
  • The ox
  • The tiger
  • The rabbit
  • The dragon
  • The snake
  • The horse
  • The sheep
  • The monkey
  • The rooster
  • The dog 
  • The pig

Each animal is part of an ancient Chinese tale known as "The Great Race." In the tale, the Jade Emperor organized a race, inviting animals from all over the world. Twelve animals showed up to the race, and the emperor vowed to name a year in the zodiac after each of the animals at the start line, according to the BBC. The order of the animals in the zodiac was determined by the order they crossed the finish line.

2023 is celebrated as the year of the rabbit. 

In Vietnamese culture, the year of the rabbit is celebrated as the year of the cat. There are a few different explanations as to why Vietnam will celebrate the 2023 new year as the year of the cat instead of the rabbit. 

Some of the most popular explanations surround the tale of the Great Race. In Chinese culture, it is said that the cat and the rat both participated in the race and were riding on the ox across a river, when the rat pushed the cat into the water, making it reach the finish line last, thus being disqualified. The rabbit was crossing the river hopping on sticks, until it hopped on a floating log that carried it across, so the rabbit finished fourth in the race.

In the Vietnamese version of the Great Race, there was no rabbit participating, and the cat could swim, so it finished fourth.

Read more about the Vietnamese year of the cat here. 

New Year traditions

Lunar New Year is often celebrated with many traditions and foods that represent prosperity, abundance and togetherness, according to History.com.

The Lunar New Year is a time for travel, and many communities travel to their families for celebrations.

Houses are cleaned thoroughly to be rid of unwanted spirits that may have gathered throughout the previous year. Cleaning is also thought of as a way to open space for good luck, according to History.com.  

According to the National Museum of Asian Art, families decorate their homes with red paper cuttings to celebrate the new year holiday.

According to History.com, messages of good health fortune are posted on red paper banners outside and inside some homes, while some hold rituals to offer paper icons and food to ancestors. 

In Chinese cultures, the last meal of the New Year celebration usually contains fish for good luck. Other New Year's foods include glutinous rice ball soup, dumplings and moon-shaped rice cakes, according to History.com. 

In Vietnamese cultures, homes are decorated with Kumquat trees and flowers like peach blossoms, orchids and chrysanthemums. Families eat five-fruit platters to honor their ancestors. Other snacks eaten include bánh chưng, a rice cake made with pork, mung beans, and wrapped in bamboo leaves. Sweet snacks called mứt tết made from roasted seeds or dried fruits rolled in sugar, are offered to guests, according to History.com.

In Chinese and Vietnamese families, red envelopes with money inside are given between relatives for the holiday.

In Korean cultures, food like sliced rice cake soup is prepared for the celebration. Families often gather in the oldest male relative's home to pay respects to ancestors and their elders, according to History.com. 

Additionally, instead of red envelopes, elders give New Year's money in white, patterned envelopes in Korean cultures, according to History.com.

How to celebrate in St. Louis

There are a number of events in St. Louis celebrating Lunar New Year. 

Here's how you can participate: 

Chinese New Year Craft- Collinsville Memorial Library

Learn about Lunar New Year and make a New Year craft.

  • Where: Collinsville Memorial Library, 408 W Main St, Collinsville, IL 62234. 
  • When: 2 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 21.

Click here to learn more.

Chinese New Year Craft- Fairmont City Library Center

Learn about Lunar New Year and make a New Year craft.

Where: Fairmont City Library Center, 4444 Collinsville Rd, Fairmont City, IL 62201.

When: 11 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 21.

Click here to learn more.

Celebrate Chinese New Year!- Missouri History Museum

Welcome the year of the rabbit with Missouri History Museum's Chinese New Year celebration. Enjoy happy hour with Chinese appetizers, and chat with 5 On Your Side's Michelle Li about Korean New Year.

  • Where: Missouri History Museum, 5700 Lindell Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63112.
  • When: 5:30 p.m.- 8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 26.

Click here to learn more.

Lunar New Year Lion Dances

Here's a collection of Lunar New Year Lion Dance celebrations happening in the area.

Lunar New Year Lion Dance- LuLu Seafood & Dim Sum

  • Where: LuLu Seafood & Dim Sum, 8224 Olive Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63132. 
  • When: 7 p.m. - 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 21.; 12:30 p.m.- 1:30 p.m.,  7 p.m.- 7:30 p. Sunday, Jan. 22.

Click here to learn more.

Lion Dance for the Lunar New Year- Olive Supermarket

  • Where: Olive Supermarket, 8041 Olive Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63130.
  • When: 9 a.m.- 9:15 a.m., Sunday, Jan. 22; 12 p.m.- 12:15 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 5.

Click here to learn more. 

Lunar New Year Lion Dance- Wonton King

  • Where: Wonton King, 8116 Olive Blvd, University City, MO 63130.
  • When: 12 p.m.- 12:15 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 22, Sunday, Jan. 29; 12:30 p.m. - 12:45 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 5.

Click here to learn more.

Hollywood Casino Lion Dance

Where: Hollywood Casino, 777 Casino Center Dr, Maryland Heights, MO 63043, 

When: 9 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 28. 

Click here to learn more. 

Lunar New Year Vietnamese Entertainment- River City Casino and Hotel

Event free to MyChoice members. 

Where: River City Casino & Hotel

When: 9 p.m.- 12 a.m., Sunday, Jan. 29.

Click here to learn more.

The International Shaolin Wushu Center is hosting a number of Lion Dances to commemorate the New Year. Click here to view all their events.

To watch 5 On Your Side broadcasts or reports 24/7, 5 On Your Side is always streaming on 5+. Download for free on Roku or Amazon Fire TV.

Before You Leave, Check This Out