Explainer: Lunar New Year celebrations

This year marks the Year of the Rabbit

This new year marks the Year of the Rabbit. (Unsplash/bady abbas)

This new year marks the Year of the Rabbit. (Unsplash/bady abbas)

Lunar New Year began on Jan. 22 and will be celebrated until Feb. 5, marking a 15 day event across the world. 

Otherwise known as Chinese New Year, 2023 marks the Year of the Rabbit, which symbolizes calmness and balance in life. For many, this is the first in-person celebration since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

While the exact beginning of Lunar New Year isn’t recorded, it carries a history of about 3,500 years and it’s estimated that it began in the Shang Dynasty between 1600 – 1046 BC, “when people held sacrificial ceremonies in honor of gods and ancestors at the beginning or the end of each year.” 

It always starts at the end of January, during the start of the second new moon. There are a total of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac calendar with every animal returning in a 12 year cycle. The year of the rabbit was last celebrated in 2011 and will only occur again in 2035. Other animals include the dragon, tiger, ox, and dog. 

Vancouver kicked off its celebrations on Jan. 22 with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in attendance. The parade, which took place in Chinatown, included traditional lion and dragon dances, as well as other cultural performances. 

British Columbia Premier David Eby also attended and spoke about the importance of Lunar New Year in the province. 

“As we say goodbye to the Year of the Tiger, we have much to look forward to in the year ahead,” Eby said in a Lunar New Year celebration statement

“As the new year begins, let us continue our work together to build a stronger, more inclusive province for everyone. To everyone celebrating Lunar New Year, I wish you prosperity and good health in mind and body,” he said. 

There are many different ways to celebrate Lunar New Year as various celebrations take place over the two weeks. 

Traditional food shared during this celebration include mooncakes, dumplings, oranges, and fortune cookies. Mooncakes are one of the most popular items eaten during Lunar New Year and can be found in various bakeries like Buttermere Patisserie in Vancouver and Maxim’s Bakery in Surrey. These bakeries are seen as the most popular places to buy them. 

While traditional food is a staple during the two weeks of celebrations, lucky red envelopes are also popular. The envelopes usually contain money and are given to loved ones. 

Another Lunar New Year tradition is decorating with red paper lanterns. They are used during this time because they symbolize the light and prosperity in the future. 

KPU International is also hosting a Lunar New Year event today from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm. The event will be held at the Richmond campus Atrium and will include games, giveaways, and food.  

Live performances of traditional Chinese music will take place at Pacific Centre shopping mall on Jan. 27 and at Richmond Centre on Jan. 29. Photo opportunities will be available during the events. 

Other Lunar New Year festivities happening in Metro Vancouver include dance performances and arts and crafts in Metrotown until Feb. 5 and a lit up lantern city in Granville Island until Feb. 20.