White brocade rabbit against background of vases and flowers

Year of the Rabbit: Everything You Need to Know

Time to hop into the Year of the Rabbit! Read on to learn more about this fourth sign of the Chinese zodiac, what's in store for the upcoming year, and other ways rabbits are significant in Chinese culture.

When is the Year of the Rabbit?

The Year of the Rabbit starts Jan. 22, 2023 and lasts until until Feb. 9, 2024. Since the Lunar New Year follows the, you guessed it, lunar calendar, the dates according to the solar or Gregorian calendar (the one most commonly used) shift every year. And because the Chinese zodiac runs on a 12-year cycle, your animal comes up every dozen years.

Not sure if you’re the Year of the Rabbit? Check out our handy zodiac chart.

The rabbit's personality 

People born in a rabbit year are gentle, approachable, quick-witted, patient, and responsible. While they can be quiet and reluctant to reveal their minds, they're always faithful to those around them. While mistakenly thought to be weak because of their kindly natures, rabbits are actually strong-minded and tenacious, and will work hard to achieve their goals.

Another legendary rabbit

The zodiac isn't the only place you'll find the rabbit in Chinese culture. An important figure for the Mid-Autumn Festival is the Jade or Gold Rabbit, named for the mythical materials of its home, the moon. Legend says the rabbit began, like his companion Chang'E the Moon Goddess, as a mortal. Then one day, he, a fox, and a monkey were approached by three immortals disguised like beggars and asking for food. While the fox and monkey handed the vittles over, the rabbit unfortunately had none to give. A generous soul, he jumped in the fire, sacrificing himself as a meal instead. The immortals promptly rewarded him by sending him up to the moon to live forever with Chang’E.

The White Rabbit was once a mouse

Another well-known bunny in Chinese culture is the White Rabbit mascot of the popular candy. But it wasn't always so. When the treat first came out in the 1940s, it was called "Mickey Mouse Sweets." After the Communist Revolution, the capitalist rodent was rejected for the now-famous rabbit.

The Vietnamese zodiac has no rabbit

Instead of the Year of the Rabbit, those who observe the Vietnamese zodiac will be celebrating the Year of the Cat. Why? One theory says it has to do with a word mixup. While the Chinese word for rabbit is tùzǐ, there’s another word that refers specifically to the Year of the Rabbit: mǎo, which sounds a lot like māo, the Chinese word for cat, which also sounds a lot like the Vietnamese word for cat, mèo.

What's up for 2023?

When your animal year comes up in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac, that’s called ben ming nian. During that time, it’s believed that you’re more vulnerable to adversity. For this year, rabbits are advised to remain with the status quo and eschew big changes, such as getting married or starting a business. They should also tread carefully when solving problems and communicating, and wear red socks or underwear for extra protection. Despite these challenges, it's believed hardworking rabbits will be rewarded in their careers.

While 2022's Water Tiger year was volatile, 2023's Water Rabbit year should be hopeful. Joanna Lee and Ken Smith, the authors behind the annual pocket Chinese almanac, are predicting a year "nowhere near as bad" as 2022.

Famous rabbits

Were you born in the Year of the Rabbit? So were silver screen icon Nancy Kwan (Flower Drum Song), action star Jet Li, legendary Hong Kong songstress Anita Mui, one of our favorite actors Ming-Na Wen (The Book of Boba Fett, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Joy Luck Club), and Olympic champion figure skater Nathan Chen.

Want to learn about the other Chinese zodiac animals? Check out our posts on the tiger, ox, rat, dog, and pig, as well as everything Lunar New Year.
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