The Lunar New Year is fast approaching and soon Asian American communities in North Texas will come together to usher in happiness, blessings and good fortune for the new year.
Unlike the solar Gregorian calendar, this new year is partly based on the lunar calendar, in which each month signals a new moon phase. A New Year’s Moon will appear on Sunday, marking the start of the holidays. The 15-day celebration culminates with the Lantern Festival, which takes place on the day of the full moon, February 5.
Sometimes called the Chinese New Year, the festival is celebrated by many East and Southeast Asian cultures, all of which have different interpretations of – and sometimes names for – the holiday. In Vietnamese culture, it is called Tết.
This year’s Lunar New Year is unique because it represents two zodiac signs, said Jian Xie, president of the Asian Culture and Education Society USA. For most people who celebrate, the new year corresponds to the rabbit, but according to the Vietnamese calendar, it is the year of the cat.
“As we celebrate the Year of the Rabbit and the Year of the Cat, we wish everyone good luck at work and happy families,” Xie said in an email. “Long live the elderly, good grades for students, a rich and strong America, and world peace.”
Here’s how the Lunar New Year is celebrated and what the Rabbit and Cat zodiac signs symbolize:
How is the Lunar New Year celebrated?
Although every culture celebrates the New Year differently, there are commonalities.
Xie, who is Chinese-American, said families usually wear new clothes and gather for dinner on New Year’s Eve, eating meaningful foods to bring blessings.
Common foods on the dinner table include steamed fish for wealth, longevity noodles for long life, rice cakes for prosperity, spring rolls to celebrate the arrival of spring, and dumplings for good fortune.
Some people also buy orange trees because they are thought to look like gold and will “draw treasures into the house”.
Meanwhile, many Chinese and Vietnamese families give red envelopes filled with money to their friends and relatives. Families also celebrate by setting off fireworks to scare away evil spirits, as well as watching dragon and lion dance performances.
The occasion can also be solemn, during which some people pray in temples or at home. Xie said that this new year she will remember her family members who died last year from COVID-19.
“We have been fighting COVID-19 for too long – this year is very important,” she said. “We are praying for people in China right now.”
Is it the year of the rabbit or the year of the cat?
According to Xie, it depends on where you live and what cultural tradition you follow.
The Chinese calendar has 12 zodiac signs: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. But the Vietnamese calendar only overlaps 10 – replacing the Chinese rabbit with the cat – which represents the different animals this year.
Each zodiac sign has different qualities and is associated with one of the five elements – gold, wood, water, fire and earth. Xie said the rabbit is an aquatic animal with a lively and alert mind, as well as a pleasant and calm demeanor.
In Vietnamese culture, the year of the cat signifies longevity, determination and good fortune, Xie said. They are believed to be gentle and sensitive animals, favoring peace and quiet.
In both cultures, people born in certain years of the zodiac are considered to have some of the qualities of the corresponding animal. If you were born in 1963, 1975, 1987 or 1999, you have the rabbit or cat zodiac and 2023 could be your lucky year.