2023 Lunar New Year Exhibition on the Empire State Plaza Concourse

2023 Lunar New Year Exhibition

On View Now

Empire State Plaza South Concourse

Through February 5

Welcome 2023 Year of the Rabbit

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 Mainland China, Taiwan, and is widely celebrated across many regions in South Korea, Vietnam, and other Asian Countries. While the official dates encompassing the holiday vary by culture, those celebrating consider it the time of the year to reunite and celebrate with immediate and extended family. 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.
2023 Year of the Rabbit Emblem Illustration


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.
Lunar New Year in China


Tết Nguyên Đán means “Festival of the First Day of the Year” on the Vietnamese calendar and is Vietnam’s most significant celebration, honoring spring’s arrival. During this time, many Vietnamese people return to their families to celebrate together and honor their ancestors and prepare by cooking special holiday food such as traditional Vietnamese cakes called bánh dày, dried young bamboo soup canh măng, and xôi sticky rice. Rice cakes, Bánh tét in southern Vietnam and Bánh chưng in northern Vietnam are essential ancestral offerings and gifts between family and friends. Additionally, the celebration is marked by colorful parades where dancers dressed as lâns (an animal hybrid between a lion and a dragon) perform dances to ward off evil spirits.
Lunar New Year in Vietnam


In Korea, Seollal is one of the most important traditional holidays and is a three-day celebration where everyone ages one year at the start of the new year lunar year. During Seollal, families gather to participate in important traditions such as Charye (a memorial service for ancestors) and sebae (the act of kneeling on the ground and bowing deeply as a sign of respect to your elders). Traditional bright and colorful clothing called hanbok are often worn during the celebrations, as the bright colors symbolize a bright future. Children are also presented with colorful silk pouches known as bok jumoni that hold gifts or money and traditional board games such as Yut Nori are played together during the holiday. Food is an integral part of the festivities and features traditional tteokguk.
Lunar New Year in Korea


During Lunar New Year, Singapore’s Chinatown holds a Festive and Food Fair where temporary stalls are set up selling traditional Chinese New Year food and decorations. Each year, a giant and eye-catching display honoring the zodiac sign of the new year is built along Upper Cross Street and New Bridge Road in Chinatown. The annual Street Light-Up party celebrates the beginning of the New Year. While less practiced today, a long-running tradition in Singapore (as well as Malaysia and Indonesia) was for single women to toss oranges into the river in hopes of meeting their future match on the last day of the New Year celebration.
Lunar New Year in Singapore


The Lunar New Year is one of the most exciting festivals in Malaysia and is a festival of renewal, holding significant religious and cultural significance in the South-East Asian nation, where a quarter of the population claim Chinese ancestry. The holiday lasts for 15 days and provides an opportunity for families to come together and wish each other good fortune in the coming year. It is common to give cards to relatives and friends, and many wish to start the year full of optimism, settling any debts they may have. The holiday also features a range of traditional parades and performances, such as lion dances and special festival foods are on sale only for this period out of the whole year, with certain dishes meant to bring good luck. Yee Sang is one of the main dishes prepared made with different vegetables, salmon, dumpling wrappers and seasoned with hoisin sauce and other condiments. The salad is also part of a traditional ritual that families love. The salad plate is placed on the middle of the table, and each person uses their chopsticks to toss the meal together exclaiming “huat ah” meaning “prosperity.” People will try to toss it as high as possible to attract good fortune. On the concluding 15th day of the festival, many will decorate their houses with brightly colored light displays in an event called Chap Goh Mei.
Lunar New Year in Malaysia


In preparation for Lunar New Year, Chinese Filipinos decorate their homes with flowers, preferably in bloom, to signify life and renewal and the largest celebration occurs in Binondo, considered one of the largest Chinatowns in the world. Spectators crowd the streets to watch the Parades of Dragons and Lions, a colorful and dynamic performance accompanied by the loud banging of drums and cymbals, as well as fireworks to drive away bad spirits, bad luck, and the mythical beast called Nian. Families also gather to have their New Year’s Eve dinner where they usually serve tikoy (year cake), which is made from sticky rice and symbolizes unity among family members. These can be in colorful boxes in market stalls leading up to the new year celebrations fortune.
Lunar New Year in Philippines


In Mongolia, the New Year is celebrated as Tsagaan Sar (White Moon) referring to the first day of the year when the new moon rises on the Mongolian traditional lunisolar calendar. Families gather to make and eat buut (dumplings) and ul boov (“shoe sole cake”). Ul boov is a stunning centerpiece consisting of layers of fried cakes with sole-like impressions baked into them that are made using a wooden stamp passed down throughout generations. During the gathering, men often exchange snuff boxes in greeting. Zolgolt is the traditional Mongolian greeting where a younger member of the family grasps an elder’s elbows as a way to transfer energy to them for the New Year.
Lunar New Year in Mongolia


Bangkok’s Chinatown is a popular destination for many celebrating the Lunar New Year in Thailand. Families gather to spend time together and will often visit temples and shrines to pay homage to their ancestors and pray for a successful year ahead. At this time, it is customary for family members to hand each other red envelopes (called ang-pao in Hokkien and lai see in Cantonese) with money and trinkets inside. During the two-to-threeday celebration. The streets are flooded with food stalls, dragon dancers, and acrobats who enthrall onlookers with their performances. One of the most thrilling displays are the acrobatic dragon dancers where performers in dragon costume make a human pyramid or spin on top of poles that are upwards to 40 feet high!
Lunar New Year in Thailand