Lunar New Year is a celebration of the arrival of spring and the beginning of a new year on the lunisolar calendar. It is the most important holiday in China, and it is also widely celebrated in South Korea, Vietnam, and countries with a significant overseas Chinese population. While the official dates encompassing the holiday vary by culture, those celebrating consider it the time of the year to reunite with immediate and extended family.
Commonly known as the Spring Festival in China, Lunar New Year is a fifteen-day celebration marked by many traditions. At home, families decorate windows with red paper cuttings and adorn doors with couplets expressing auspicious wishes for the new year. Shopping for holiday sundries in open-air markets and cleaning the house are also beloved traditions. The Lunar New Year’s Eve reunion dinner is the highlight that kicks off the holiday, a feast with a spread of symbolic dishes, such as a whole fish representing abundance, that bring good luck and fortune. The fifteenth and final day of the holiday is the Lantern Festival, during which people have tangyuan, or sweet glutinous rice balls, and children carry lanterns around the neighborhood at night to mark the end of the celebration.
In the Chinese zodiac, 2023 is the year of the rabbit. In the Vietnamese and Gurung (Central Nepal) zodiac, the cat replaces the rabbit. In the Malay zodiac, the mousedeer replaces the rabbit. We also acknowledge that many Asian American and Pacific Islanders do not follow the Chinese/Lunar zodiac.
Enjoy our Lunar New Year digital library, which represents the richness of traditions and celebrations across cultures. Connect to your loved ones near and far with an e-card featuring an artwork from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art.
Celebrate with us through programs
We invite you to attend our Lunar New Year programs below.
Meditation and Mindfulness
Friday, January 20, 2023 | 12 – 12:45 pm
Lunar New Year 2023 Celebration
Saturday, January 21, 2023 | 12 – 4 pm
Journey of Color: Lunar New Year Tour
Saturday, January 21, 2023 | 12 pm
Lunar New Year: Holiday-Inspired Cooking Demo
Saturday, January 21, 2023 | 1 – 2 pm | Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Lunar New Year: Shanghai Quartet Online Performance
Sunday, January 22, 2023 | 7:30 pm
Take a virtual tour
Bounce into the Year of the Rabbit with a virtual tour of Asian art! The tour will explore customs and traditions of the Lunar New Year through artworks in the museum’s collections. Participants will discover popular themes associated with Spring Festival celebrations, read auspicious messages in decorative motifs, and learn the symbolism of New Year colors, plants, and animals.
Get creative with art-inspired activities for all ages
Create your own Monkey King mask and download pictures of artworks from our collections that you can color.
Learn more about Lunar New Year traditions
We’re celebrating Lunar New Year by sharing personal insights about how different countries mark the holiday. Post your own traditions in the comment sections of these blogs.
- Lunar New Year: Then and Now
- Lunar New Year: Your Birthday Too
- Lunar New Year: Celebrating Seollal
- Memories of a Lunar New Year Past
- Lunar New Year Lessons from Chinese School
- Zhong Kui and the Lunar New Year
- Lion Dancing for Lunar New Year
- Happy Losar
Discover art and music online
Enjoy our library of Lunar New Year videos highlighting collections, performances, and past celebrations.
- Chinese Music for the Lunar New Year
Also called the Spring Festival, the Lunar New Year in China marks the traditional start of the agricultural season. It’s also a time to admire the hearty plum blossom, which flowers so early that snow is sometimes still on the ground. Enjoy these performances of music celebrating plum blossoms, lingering snow, and the arrival of springtime. This compilation draws from concerts at the museum featuring Bing Xia on zheng, Yi Zhou on pipa and qin, Miao Yi Min on xiao and dizi, and the Gang-a-Tsui Theater, all recorded live at the National Museum of Asian Art.
For Educators: Teaching China with the Smithsonian
Discover videos and objects related to Lunar New Year. These resources are perfect asynchronous learning assignments for students in grades 5 through 12.
- Spring Festival, Lunar New Year
- Palace Women and Children Celebrating the New Year
- New Year’s Prints
- Students in Mandarin language immersion classes may be interested in viewing Teaching China with the Smithsonian‘s thirty-two videos, now with captions in Mandarin.
Teachers can access the following Mandarin lesson plans:
- Learning Jueju through Chinese Painting: A Branch of Bamboo
- Self-cultivation and Enlightenment: Cultural Activities of the Ancient Chinese Literati
- Beliefs and Values in Ancient China: Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism
Take an immersive tour of two Chinese artworks through story maps from Google Arts and Culture:
Need a fun interactive activity? Complete our Lunar New Year-inspired puzzle.
Virtual Pre-K–12 Field Trips
Lunar New Year
Available December 14, 2022–February 3, 2023
Available for Grades Pre-K–5
What is Lunar New Year, and how is the celebration similar to and different from celebrations marking January 1? Experience the entertainment, foods, symbols, and other customs of Lunar New Year. During this virtual field trip, students will explore works of art; other possible activities include participating in an interactive storytelling session, completing a simple art project, or watching video clips of Lunar New Year festivities. Ring in the Year of the Rabbit!
Show your festive spirit on Zoom
Join your next Zoom call with a newly designed Zoom background using artworks from from the collections of the National Museum of Asian Art.