No matter where you’re from, when the calendar flips over to a new year, it’s time to break out some tried-and-true traditions to attract the maximum amount of good fortune for the upcoming 365 days. In Spain, this means speed-eating 12 grapes (one for each time the clock chimes) at the stroke of midnight. In Iran, celebrants snack on kuku sabzi, an herb-heavy frittata, for abundance and happiness during Nowruz, the Persian New Year. And in the American South, you’d be hard-pressed to find a superstitious household where someone isn’t cooking up a sizeable batch of black-eyed peas and collard greens on Jan. 1.
Across East and Southeast Asia, where countries follow the lunisolar calendar, the start of the symbolic new year officially begins when the new moon arrives in late January or early February. Known as the Lunar New Year, this seismic shifting to a fresh, anything-can-happen year is honored and celebrated with widespread revelry — and plenty of lucky rituals. In China, the Lunar New Year means festooning homes, businesses, and everywhere in between with auspicious shades of red: Red-and-gold fireworks crack, red lanterns sway in the breeze, and children open small red envelopes filled with money as a blessing from their elders. In Vietnam, the Lunar New Year, known as tet nguyen dan (or Tet for short), finds multiple generations gathering to cook banh chung (sticky rice cakes with rich pork belly and mung beans) and candied coconut ribbon to usher in a fortunate, family-centered new year. And for the Taiwanese, pineapple cakes and white turnips are the good luck foods that mark the passage into the next annual cycle and hope of coming spring.
The Lunar New Year in China also marks the annual transition between the 12 zodiac signs, with a new corresponding animal — possessing unique personality traits — taking over yearly. Much as in Western astrology, people are said to possess characteristics of the Chinese zodiac sign under which they were born, and whether you’re an affable, hardworking Pig or a philosophical, serious Snake, it’s always illuminating to put a finger on potential reasons we behave, feel, and believe certain ways.
Outlined below are the 12 Chinese zodiac signs, their personality traits, and a lucky food suggestion for the upcoming year. After you find your sign, if you’re looking to really swell your good fortune during the Lunar New Year, there’s also advice on how to create a Chinese-inspired dish with each ingredient that incorporates traditional, lucky Lunar New Year preparations with your sign’s uniquely fortunate food. (If not, there are some traditional American holiday menu ideas proposed as well.)
Welcome to the Year of the Rabbit in 2023, and xīn nián hǎo!
Year of the Rat (Born: 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020)
The first sign of the Chinese zodiac cycle, thanks to their cunning ways, those born in the Year of the Rat are quick-thinking, social creatures who enjoy rubbing elbows with plenty of acquaintances (the cocktail party circuit was built for them) but only show their generosity with a select few. Are Rats a little opportunistic? Sometimes, but their deeply rooted sincerity helps keep them in check. “The charm and innovative personality of the Rat is legendary,” write Theodora and Laura Lau in The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes (9th Edition). “On the surface, some Rats may appear reserved, even placid, but they are never as quiet as they may seem. Something is always going on inside that sharp mind.”
Lucky Food: Garlic
Dish to Try: During the post-holiday lull between Christmas and New Year — when glittery wrapping paper still carpets the house — nothing is simpler and more soul-warming than a classic 40-clove garlic chicken roasting in the oven. If you’re looking to grow your wealth in 2023, start practicing making spring rolls — specifically, a garlic-heavy version with bean sprouts, coriander and spring onions. The lucky saying for eating spring rolls during the Lunar New Year is hwung-jin wan-lyang , which translates to “a ton of gold,” and repeating this while crunching into a perfectly golden, garlicky spring roll will assuredly help usher in a year of prosperity.
Year of the Ox (Born: 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021)
If you have someone in your orbit who is always willing to go the extra mile for a loved one — a trustworthy, hardworking and dependable person — I’d wager a bet that they were born in the Year of the Ox. Diligence and stability are the calling cards of Oxen folk, which probably comes as no surprise, thanks to their ties to agriculture and the earth. They’ll hold steadfast to their commitments with an honest, quiet determination that’s rare in our modern era.
Lucky Food: Eggplant
Dish to Try: Eggplant could grace your holiday menu as the showstopping ingredient in a vegetarian-friendly Provencal tian (a type of gratin) to impress the in-laws, or in a big bowl of cozy, tomato-rich pasta alla Norma to enjoy while you’re wrapping presents with friends. On the other hand, you could break out the wok to make red-braised Chinese eggplant, a chile-forward, garlicky vegan dish where thick slabs of eggplant serve as (delicious) sponges for a sticky-umami sauce. It works well as a crowd-pleasing main course or a potluck sleeper hit, all while bringing everyone a taste of good luck with its Lunar New Year-approved red hue.
Year of the Tiger (Born: 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022)
There’s no one more dynamic — for better or worse — than a person born in the Year of the Tiger, with enough fiery adventurousness, vigorous energy and rebellious spirit to lead a revolution. Despite being honest to a fault and just a tad impulsive, people are always drawn to Tigers for their underlying sense of justice and ability to fight for what they believe in. Beneath all that daring and bravado, though, lies an undercurrent of cuddly sensitivity, which Tigers should take great care to foster through close relationships.
Lucky Food for 2023: Corn
Dish to Try: A heaping helping of corn pudding, or a butter-dappled hunk of crumbly cornbread would fit in well on your holiday plate, sure. But why not mix it up by making tiger prawns with sweet corn and chiles for dinner on a night you’re marathoning Hallmark Christmas movies?
Year of the Rabbit (Born: 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023)
Oh, earnest, deep-feeling, artistic rabbits, 2023 is a year that’s in your sign, which means that you might experience quite the rollercoaster ride of highs and lows (“fan tai sui”) throughout its course. Nevertheless, your gentle kindness and sociability will ensure that even on the most ho-hum days, you understand that there’s grace to be gleaned from all situations — just make sure not to give in to your overly-analytical side.
Lucky Food for 2023: Beef
Dish to Try: Go all out with tteokguk — “good luck Korean rice cake soup” — which comprises fall-off-the-bone brisket simmered with scallions and ginger. It’s traditionally eaten in Korea to begin the new year. And if a special occasion soup doesn’t speak to you, there’s always tried-and-true beef Wellington or prime rib to fall back on as a celebratory centerpiece.
Year of the Snake (Born: 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025)
The deepest thinkers in the Chinese zodiac, Snakes are known for their wise-beyond-their-years air, enigmatic nature and smooth sophistication. Those born in the Year of the Snake tend to trust their own instincts above the recommendations of others, and have a calm and orderly approach to dealing with even the stickiest issues. Be warned, though: Snakes tend to be somewhat distrustful and mysterious, so don’t be surprised if you’re always left wondering, “What do they actually think about me?”
Lucky Food: Almonds
Dish to Try: You’d be hard-pressed to think of a sweet snack that smells more like the holiday season than sugar-crystalized, cinnamon-scented candied almonds (known in German as gebrannte mandeln). If you’ve gone overboard on the baking spices this season, though, let almonds be the star of the show in a big batch of Chinese almond cookies, which use whole almonds, almond flour, and almond extract, and are said to resemble coins for good luck.
Year of the Horse (Born: 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026)
If a free-spirited, ultra-sporty, dream-chasing partner is who you’re searching for, then focus your dating apps in on someone born in the Year of the Horse. “A person born in the Horse’s year will be cheerful, popular and quick-witted although [their] changeable nature may cause them to be hot-tempered, rash and head-strong at times,” write Lau and Lau. “Earthy and warmly appealing, [they] are very perceptive, talkative … and are noted for their love of sports, outdoor activities and fondness for animals.”
Lucky Food: Sweet potatoes
Dish to Try: It’s said that the number of dumplings you’re able to eat during the Lunar New Year will predict how much money you’ll be making in the coming year, and if you’re gobbling down money bag dumplings, expect your riches to flourish. Unlike traditional, crescent-moon-shaped dumplings, money bag dumplings resemble satchels of coins, and sweet potatoes make for the perfect golden-hued filling. If dumplings aren’t your thing, incorporate your lucky food first thing in the morning with a gooey plate of sweet potato cinnamon rolls.
Year of the Sheep (or Goat) (Born: 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027)
Gentle and compassionate, Sheep are marked by one major personality trait: their sensitivity. The most peaceful and mild-mannered of all the Chinese zodiac signs, people born in the Year of the Sheep are drawn to both creative pursuits and helping others — even better if they can find a way to combine the two. Empathetic Sheep adore spending time with children and will always give everyone the benefit of the doubt (for better or worse).
Lucky Food: Mushrooms
Dish to Try: Shitake mushrooms symbolize prosperity in Chinese culture, so you can maximize your good fortune for 2023 by whirring the ‘shrooms into a creamy soup to sip from a thermos while oohing and aahing at holiday lights. However, I’d suggest looking toward the future — and doubling down on good luck — by incorporating shitakes into a traditional Lunar New Year dish: longevity noodles. A celebratory staple, the spongy, stir-fried noodles are never broken by the cook (ever!) and if you can eat the noodles without biting in the middle, well, that’s even more auspicious. Long noodles, long life.
Year of the Dragon (Born: 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024)
The only mythical creature to come fire-breathing into the Chinese zodiac line-up, people born in the Year of the Dragon are as captivating, charismatic and confident as the powerful creature that represents them, easily achieving leadership positions thanks to a great deal of ambition, intuition and a little bit of luck. Dragons are widely considered the most auspicious of the signs. Because they’re often so career-focused, dragons tend to neglect their health, so it’s critical that they take time to recharge and find balance. (As a Dragon myself, I’m still trying to take my own advice.)
Lucky Food for 2023: Spinach
Dish to Try: For a more classic spinach-based dish, you can’t go wrong with a good old-fashioned creamed spinach or legendary River Road Recipes cookbook staple Spinach Madeleine. But if you’re trying to turn a corner into a less cheese-filled existence in the new year, spinach dumplings with tofu and a cup of green tea are a surefire way to deliciously triple your healthy goodwill. Just make sure to arrange your dumplings in lines instead of circles on the plate; circles of dumplings indicate that a person’s life will spiral and never go anywhere during the new year.
Year of the Monkey (Born: 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028)
Witty, clever and predisposed to just a little bit of mischief-making, people born in the Year of the Monkey are some of the most intelligent in the entire zodiac. Monkeys love to make others laugh (no surprise there!) but can have an impatient streak when those around them can’t keep up with their ever-racing train of thought. Since monkeys love to eat peaches — and, in China, peaches are associated with longevity — those born under the sign of the Monkey are expected to have long, fruitful lives.
Lucky Food: Black beans
Dish to Try: In Cuban households, no Christmas Eve is complete without frijoles negros, the flavor-packed, slow-cooked black beans with an aroma so enticing you’ll be itching to know the secret ingredient in the sofrito. But if you’re looking for a condiment that can be used time and again in the coming year (and that makes a gourmand-approved gift!) consider making your own Chinese black bean sauce. These fermented “black beans” — which are actually black soybeans, called douchi — are easy to whip up into a pungent, spicy, tongue-tingling sauce that goes with everything from seared bok choy to roasted whole fish, a Lunar New Year food symbolizing abundance.
Year of the Rooster (Born: 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029)
“The Rooster is the Don Quixote of the Chinese cycle. A dauntless hero, he is the most misunderstood and eccentric of all the signs,” write Lau and Lau. “Outwardly, he is the epitome of self-assurance and aggression, but at heat, he can be conservative and old-fashioned.” With a bent toward perfectionism and an unrelenting seriousness about, well, everything, those born in the Year of the Rooster are something of a paradox: quick to criticism while in the public sphere, but in need of constant reassurance when roosting at home with their tight-knit family. If you’re a Rooster, it would be wise to keep your feather-ruffling cockiness in check.
Lucky Food: Rice
Dish to Try: Rice pudding laced with nutmeg and dappled with currants has a decidedly Victorian Christmas feel if you’re trying to do your best A Christmas Carol cosplay, or you could make eight treasure rice — the auspicious Lunar New Year version of rice pudding. A popular dish in both China and Taiwan, eight treasure rice adorns glutinous (sticky) rice with eight different types of colorful, jewel-like dried fruits and nuts and fills the center of the dome-shaped, showstopping dish with red bean paste. The number eight in Chinese has become a lucky touchstone because it sounds like the word for “thriving in business” while each of the “treasures” — from dates and jackfruit to walnuts and dried pears — comes with its own unique good fortune.
Year of the Dog (Born: 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018)
“Loyalty” is the word flashing in neon above the heads of everyone born in the Year of the Dog, and if you’re in their inner circle, there’s nothing that they won’t do to help make your life just a little bit easier. Affectionate, friendly and sincere, Dogs are sensitive to their surroundings and aren’t afraid to speak their mind — even if it clashes with those outside of their intimate pack.
Lucky Food: Ginger
Dish to Try: Instead of dips and crudité, offer up sweet well wishes at your holiday celebration with a “tray of togetherness”: an eight-compartment serving platter filled with dried fruits, candies and nuts that traditionally welcomes guests to Lunar New Year gatherings. Fill your tray with plenty of candied ginger (for longevity), dried kumquats (for prosperity), peanuts (for good health), dried pineapple (for success in business) and whatever other blessings you’d like to shower upon your loved ones in the forthcoming year. Opting out of the tray of togetherness? Don’t be afraid to tuck additional bursts of ginger into your heirloom recipes, like candied sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie and ham glaze.
Year of the Pig (or Boar) (Born: 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019)
Looking for someone to accomplish even the most mundane task with enthusiasm? Look no further than people born in the Year of the Pig. Noble, patient and pure-hearted, Pigs are the type of friend who will drop everything at 3 a.m. to help you out in a pinch and not think twice about it. There’s a glutenous side, however, to these kind and gallant creatures, so even if they’re hosting the soiree of the year, keeping an eye on overindulgence would behoove them.
Lucky Food: Oranges
Dish to Try: Dried orange slices looping around a Christmas tree adds a touch of rural, natural whimsy to anyone’s holiday décor, but in Chinese homes during the Lunar New Year, oranges (along with tangerines, kumquats and pomelos) are on display in whole form due to their roundness and “golden” hue that symbolize fullness and wealth. What’s more, “orange” and “tangerine” closely resemble the words for “luck” and “wealth,” meaning no matter how you slice it, oranges are a fortunate must for welcoming in 2023.