The Year of the Rabbit

VHHS’s Asian-American community celebrates the Lunar New Year


Evan Kim

Sarah Lee (12) scoops the perfect amount of pork filling into a dumpling wrapper.

The Lunar New Year is a holiday not officially recognized but nationally celebrated by millions. It’s a holiday that was cultivated in the US by the persistence of Asian immigrants and is symbolic of prosperity and family unity.

What is the Lunar New Year?

The Lunar New Year is based on the Chinese lunar calendar. As the name suggests, the lunar calendar follows cycles of the moon’s orbit around the Earth. One lunar month is one full orbit of the moon, or the time it takes for the moon to complete one cycle of its phases, which typically lasts about 28 days. Because of the use of a lunar calendar, the Lunar New Year falls on a different date each year. This year it began on Sunday, January 22. The holiday also lasts 15 days, the time it takes for a new moon to become full. 

According to Lisa Yao, mother of VHHS student Eton Yao (12) and former principal of 18 years at Xilin North Education Center in Bannockburn, Illinois, the lunar calendar was also how Chinese farmers kept track of changing weather patterns. For the farmers, this period signified the end of winter and beginning of spring, which is why it is also called the Spring Festival. 


Like the traditional American New Year, the Lunar New Year commemorates future prosperity and good fortune. In Chinese culture, this is celebrated by paying respects to elders and receiving money in exchange. Eton Yao explained the Chinese terms used in these traditions. 

“You basically put your hands together, and then you say xīn nián kuài lè, which is ‘Happy New Year.’ And then you say hóng bāo ná lái, which means, ‘give me a red packet [envelope],’” said Yao.

These terms are said to the loved ones in your life who are typically older than you and married. These envelopes contain money as a wish of good fortune, and their red color carries significance.

“In Chinese culture, red is a lucky color. I usually wear it as a bracelet or as a sock or something, but it essentially blocks out all the bad luck from your life,” said Yao. “It’s the color most attributed to luck, good fortune, and prosperity.”

Parades and shows within the Chinese-American community are also common during this 15-day period. Kevin Ye (12), another Chinese student at VHHS described how he spent the Lunar New Year with his family. 

“We make dumplings and watch a show broadcasted from China,” said Ye. “There’s a bunch of people dancing, and it’s like a talent show.”

These shows often showcase what students have been working on throughout their life.

“I grew up doing Kung Fu, so I would have to put on a lot of performances with dance companies, and it would just be a collaboration of Chinese culture, singing, music, dance [and] other performance types,” said Yao.

Who celebrates?

Widely known as the Chinese New Year, the Lunar New Year is actually celebrated by a plethora of other Southern and Eastern Asian ethnicities. According to the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of all Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese Americans celebrate the holiday. 

Food is Tradition

Feasts are an essential part of the New Year festivities. One tradition is to eat “long life noodles” which are long, giant noodles that symbolize having a long life full of happiness.

“You’re not supposed to cut [them] though, because then it’s like you’re cutting your life short,” said Yao.

Another major food item is dumplings, which signify wealth and prosperity in the New Year because they are shaped like money pouches. On January 23rd, VHHS’s Asian Student Association celebrated the New Year by making and cooking their own dumplings with filling made of pork, napa cabbage, ginger and onion, a traditional recipe according to Yao. 

Zodiac Signs

According to myths, Chinese zodiac signs were a method of time measurement and a way to keep track of lunar years.

“The story I’ve grown up with is that there were a bunch of animals who entered a race, and essentially, the winner of the race would get the first year. So the winner of the race was the rat,” said Yao.

The Chinese Zodiac cycles through 12 years that are each represented by an animal. It begins with the rat, then the ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and finishes with the pig. The animal represented by the year you’re born in is your sign, and each zodiac is attributed to certain characteristics; for example, monkeys are smart and curious. 

This year is the Year of the Rabbit, a symbol of peace, cautiousness and contemplation. This could mean different things for certain signs; for example, Yao spoke about being a rooster.

“Apparently, roosters this year have really bad luck. So, in order to counteract that, we’re supposed to do a lot of community service or volunteer work just to bring up that filial piety,” said Yao.