The Chinese zodiac is based on the idea of zoolatry, or animal worship, and dates back to the Qin Dynasty – more than 2,000 years ago. According to legend, the Jade Emperor summoned all of the animals to his palace in order to participate in a great race, of sorts. The order in which the animals finished determined their place in the zodiac. In order from first to last, the results were as follows: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. The 12 animals correspond to a repeating 12-year cycle based on the lunar calendar. Lunar New Year, also referred to as Spring Festival, celebrates the transition from one animal to the next. As such, Lunar New Year 2023 marks the end of the Year of the Tiger and the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit – the Year of the Water Rabbit, to be precise – the fourth animal in the Chinese zodiac. People born in the Year of the Rabbit are peaceful and patient, with an accumulative energy that encourages calmness and rationalism. Furthermore, the water element is indicative of tapping into our inner wisdom and trusting our instincts. The overall result is a year during which emotional intelligence and compassion are both increased and celebrated. With Lunar New Year 2023 officially kicking off on Sunday, 22 January, a quintessential day of reverence has been curated by three of the city’s most popular entities – Crown Casino, the National Gallery of Victoria and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
Hop down to Crown Casino to enjoy a festive menu of roving entertainment, calligraphers, Atrium shows and theming throughout the complex. Included in this is the immersive Zodiac Spectacular, a display in which larger-than-life luminous animal sculptures representing the 12 Chinese zodiac signs are sent cascading down the Crown Atrium staircase. This is a spectacle that truly must be seen to be believed! Add to this a traditional lion-and-drum Atrium show – performed at 7pm and 9pm daily from Friday, 20 January, to Sunday, 29 January – and your 2023 Lunar New Year celebrations shall undoubtedly get off on the right (lucky rabbit’s) foot.
On Lunar New Year’s Day, from 10am to 3pm, be welcomed by the National Gallery of Victoria at NGV International for an experience of art, food, art-creating activities, music and dance. Korean-Australian artist Suyeon Park invites visitors of all ages to use their imagination and create a personalised paper lantern using a custom template designed by the artist, herself. Lion dance performances by Hong De Lion Dance Association are scheduled for 12:30pm and 2:30pm, and Chinese music compliments of Guzheng instrumentalist QiQi will soothe your ears by weaving a magical atmosphere with a blend of folk and classical styles. Finally, come face to face with one of the most significant fashion designers of the 20th century in the ‘Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse’ exhibition. Feel the exhilaration of revelling in over 120 of the fashion maverick’s garments and accessories alongside more than 80 artworks that showcase his expanse of influences – including painting, sculpture, photography, works on paper and decorative arts – from a wide variety of eras and cultures. For an appropriate conclusion to your NGV Lunar New Year celebration, collect complimentary red envelopes from the Design Store while securing the perfect gifts for family and friends.
Now, once you have had two weeks to acclimate yourself to the Rabbit’s peace, patience, calmness and rationalism, it would be wise – and oh-so fulfilling – to make your way to Hamer Hall on Saturday, 4 February, at 7:30pm for the MSO’s 10th annual Chinese New Year Concert. Inspired by the exhilarating natural beauty of the Sichuan Province, this festive concert will be conducted by the Artistic Director of the Sichuan Symphony Orchestra, Darrell Ang, and will feature Soprano Meigui Zhang, Angela Li on piano and the Australian Dunhuang Arts Academy. The evening’s program includes, but is not limited to, Guan Xia’s ‘Symphonic Overture No. 1’, Julian Yu’s ‘Evolution’, ‘The Sleeping Beauty Suite’ by Tchaikovsky, ‘Elevator Music’ by Julian Koehne and Ding Shande’s ‘Four Chinese Folk Songs’. The mood will be optimistic and full of possibility for the coming year. It is worth noting that the you-know-what has been pulled cleanly out of its hat and tickets are selling quickly to this concert. Do not hesitate; secure your seats today. The MSO’s Lunar New Year performance is the perfect opportunity to spend a relaxing evening with family and/or friends and to renew your appreciation of Australia’s multicultural heartbeat.
Here is wishing everyone a very happy and prosperous Year of the Water Rabbit!