Celebrating Lunar New Year — Now an Official State Holiday

This Lunar New Year is marked by historical state law signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, making it a state holiday. Illustration by Kotoffei, iStock.

While New Year celebrations have ended for some people, for many Asian communities, they’re about to begin. Lunar New Year starts on Jan. 22, which will usher in the Year of the Rabbit.

Lunar New Year is seen as one of the most important celebrations in the Asian community.  It is a time marked by lots of travel as families gather for the annual celebrations. Each culture celebrates the Lunar New Year differently, with various foods and traditions that symbolize prosperity, abundance, and togetherness.

The CSUN community will have a chance to celebrate Lunar New Year together at different events next month. The Asian American Studies Pathways Program (AASPP) and the University Student Union (USU) will host the Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi-American Cultural Welcome Back event and a Lunar New Year Celebration at the Northridge Center on Feb. 8 from 4-6 pm. On Feb. 9, there will be a follow-up Welcome Back BBQ At the Glenn Omatsu House. The time is yet to be determined.

This year is extra special because a new state law (AB 2596) recognizes Lunar New Year as an official state holiday. This designation allows state employees to use paid time off to celebrate the holiday.

In his signing message, Governor Gavin Newsom said that recognizing Lunar New Year as a state holiday “acknowledges the diversity and cultural significance Asian Americans bring to California.”

Lunar New Year is celebrated across Asia and has many names that vary by country. China’s Lunar New Year is known as the Spring Festival or Chūnjié in Mandarin, while Koreans call it Seollal and Vietnamese refer to it as Tết.

The celebrations begin with the first new moon of the lunar calendar and end on the first full moon of the lunar calendar, 15 days later. Because of this, dates can vary by year, but it always falls between Jan. 21-Feb. 20. For 2023, the Lunar New Year ends on Feb. 5.

Each year in the Lunar calendar is represented by one of the 12 Zodiac animals, which corresponds with one of the five elements: earth, water, fire, wood and metal. This is the Year of the Rabbit, which last occurred in 2011, and falls under the water element.

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