Late January and early February of this year mark the worldwide celebration of the Lunar/Solar New Year in the Chinese calendar. Because the Chinese calendar is based on both the phases of the moon and the time of the solar year, the celebration date shifts from year to year, but the joy remains the same: the weeks-long observance is noted with fireworks, food, family visits, and festivals.
While Chinese Lunar Year is a time for new beginnings and transformation, it is one of the oldest celebrations in the world, dating back over 3,500 years. Also known as the Spring Festival, the New Year follows a 60-year cycle based on the five elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water), their yin and yang forms, and the transition from one of the twelve Chinese zodiac signs and its corresponding animal to the next. The start to the calendar year arrives with the second moon following the winter solstice (on or about December 21), beginning between January 21 and February 20. In 2023 that began on January 22nd, when we moved from the Year of the Tiger to the Year of the Rabbit, and to the Yin energy of the Water element.
Relationship Between Chinese Lunar Year and Acupuncture
The welcoming of the new year is a time for aligning with new energies, and acupuncture treatments can fortify those efforts. Just as the Chinese zodiac is represented by twelve animals, acupuncture maps twelve channels or meridians representing a circulatory system of Qi, or vital energy and incorporating the same five elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water and the same Yin and Yang duality as the lunar calendar.
Celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year
Much like the Western celebration of the New Year is marked by both celebrations and resolutions for improvement, the Chinese Lunar New Year is both festive and a time for introspection. The traditional celebration includes wearing red clothing and hanging red banners to scare away spirits of bad fortune, eating traditional cakes and puddings called “gao” or “gou” to invite growth, cleaning your home to get rid of accumulated bad luck, and enjoying a family reunion dinner replete with gifts, offerings to ancestors, and eating dishes associated with good luck. The holiday ends on the 15th day with parades, fireworks, and the Lantern Festival, which signifies both reunions and freedom.
The Year of the Rabbit
The rabbit is the fourth year in the 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle. It follows the Tiger and precedes the Dragon, and as such it represents a moment of catching our breath and resting between two high-energy years. People born in the Year of the Rabbit are said to be peacemakers, gifted at negotiation and collaboration. They are generally easy-going, but also can be afraid of change, allowing their reticence to keep them from moving forward.
2023 is the Year of the Yin Water Rabbit
The Year of the Rabbit is associated with self-reflection. Jonathan H. X. Lee, an Asian and Asian American studies professor at San Francisco State University calls the rabbit a strong symbol of peace, and says, “There needs to be a moment of introspection and thoughtfulness in being, in action, and for the intention of long-term success. You’re going to be much more conservative and reflective in your decision-making.” This is a strong counterpoint to last year’s Year of the Tiger, which was marked by confidence, competition, and unpredictability, just as last year’s Yang Water was akin to a rising tide while this year’s Yin Water is more like a still pond. It is thought that 2023 will be a more stable year – which will represent a welcome relief for many.
The Year of the Rabbit and Your Health
An introspective year provides significant opportunities for both inner healing and paying attention to overall health. It is the right time to nourish yourself and address minor aches, pains and concerns before they develop into bigger problems and chronic conditions. Chinese preventative medicine restores balance, helping to mobilize the immune system and nourish and defends against illness: it prepares us for stress that may arise in the future.
Sharon Sherman has been licensed to practice acupuncture and East Asian Medicine since 2001 and holds the highest credential available from both the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine and the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. She has deep knowledge and understanding of how acupuncture and herbs can provide relief and numerous benefits for the unique range of symptoms experienced by her patients, and her expertise allows her to select and employ the best therapy for her patients.