While Jan. 1 has come and gone, Lunar New Year is still on the horizon. Ushering in the Year of the Rabbit, which is considered the luckiest animal of the 12 in the Chinese zodiac, the holiday falls on Sunday, Jan. 22. It’s celebrated by various Asian cultures and communities around the world and is steeped in tradition — from the food you eat to the clothes you wear, and even the gifts you give, everything should reflect the wish for happiness, health, prosperity and abundance for the year ahead.
So what makes a great Lunar New Year gift? We asked Asian business owners to share their favorites, from mouthwatering hot sauces to beautiful and timeless jewelry.
But before we get into those, the founders we spoke to also wanted to warn about the things you shouldn’t gift for Lunar New Year. “There are definitely some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when picking out Lunar New Year gifts,” says Pearl River Mart president Joanne Kwong.
You’ll want to avoid anything associated with death, so handkerchiefs, clocks and the number four are out (in Chinese, “four” sounds similar to “death”). Kwong says to stay away from sharp objects, knives (“since they imply the cutting of ties”) and shoes (“the word for shoes, xie, is a homonym for “evil”) too.
On the flip side, Kwong says, “You can’t go wrong with red envelopes (called lai see in Cantonese and hong bao in Mandarin) full of crisp new bills. The tradition is for married folks to give them to children and singletons — a great excuse to stay single, at least for the Lunar New Year!” She says $88 is a popular amount to gift since eight is a lucky number in Chinese.
You can also support the Asian community by shopping AAPI-owned businesses, like the ones we’ve included here (as well as in our roundups of Asian-owned fashion, food and home brands and AAPI-owned beauty brands). You’ll find original gift ideas that value and honor Lunar New Year’s traditions, perfect for bringing good fortune to you and your loved ones.
The first Chinese American department store, Pearl River Mart has been operating out of downtown Manhattan for over 50 years. With clothes, accessories, home, art and even food and snacks, the shop is the perfect place to peruse for gifts. You’ll find plenty of Lunar New Year’s goodies like the traditional red envelopes, Year of the Rabbit-themed knickknacks and fun novelties for all ages.
Kwong says the annual Lunar New Year box is a great present: "It's chock-full of lucky items that will help people get started on the right foot for the Year of the Rabbit, including various lucky candies, cute rabbit items, red money envelopes, a lucky charm like a diamond knot tassel (which symbolizes longevity), something noisy (like a toy drum) to scare away evil spirits (which is why firecrackers are set off on Lunar New Year day) and a Pocket Chinese Almanac, a mini book of daily household tips, health remedies and recommendations for 2023."
An affordable and symbolic gift, this bracelet will bring luck to the wearer with its lucky combination of jade and a red tie.
If you're attending a Lunar New Year potluck and don't want to show up empty-handed, bring some lucky candy. "Sweet candies for a sweet year!" Kwong shares, adding that candied ginger (which symbolizes health and longevity) or coconut (which represents family togetherness and unity) are traditional options.
Sundays’ nontoxic nail polishes come in a myriad of shades, and the selection of reds make for an especially auspicious Lunar New Year gift. You can pick up a single polish or, as founder Amy Ling suggests, customize a box of three polishes with symbolic shades. “Red represents luck and all three reds can represent different areas in life: good luck for your health, good luck for a great career and good luck for your relationships.”
Plus, you won’t have to worry about offending with the unlucky number four. “In Chinese culture, people are really sensitive to words of affirmation and symbolism,” Ling explains. “For instance, the number four can be symbolic of ‘death’ in Chinese, so definitely avoid anything with the number four in it.”
Completely customizable, you can choose three nail polish shades to include in this gift set. From fiery No. 13 to rich No. 18, Sundays has 10 red shades to choose from that would be perfect for Lunar New Year.
You can also purchase the nail polish as single bottles. No. 13 is an award-winning chili pepper red that will match your Lunar New Year's envelopes.
Kinn’s chic and modern 14-karat solid gold pieces will last a lifetime. In fact, they’re designed to be modern heirlooms and thus make beautiful gifts to pass along to loved ones. “Many choose this day to wear something new as it helps to signify a ‘clean start,’” founder Jennie Yoon says of Lunar New Year. “A new addition for someone’s wardrobe is often a welcome gift!”
For the holiday, Yoon created a symbolic nameplate necklace that she hopes resonates with anyone in the AAPI community and connects to her own Korean heritage. “When I first arrived in the States, I was tasked with choosing a Western name that was more common and easier to pronounce,” Yoon shares. “I soon became known as Jennie and my birth name, 혜정 (Hye-Jung), became a distant memory. My hope is this piece resonates with those that have a similar story and allows them to reconnect to their origin stories and honor tradition.”
The necklace is available in Korean, Chinese and Japanese script, and Yoon says it’s important to keep variations between cultures in mind when shopping for a Lunar New Year gift. In Korean culture, for example, Yoon says “white symbolizes purity.” However, Ling shares that white and black are “traditionally worn by Chinese in times of mourning” and should be avoided during the holiday. So depending on who you’re celebrating with, you’ll want to be mindful of the colors you wear, gift and even wrap presents with.
"The nameplate necklace is an ode to immigrant families and the many challenges they’ve had to face while building a new life here," Yoon says.
"Gifting a significant color is a no-fail way to help honor tradition," Yoon says. Green symbolizes wealth and harmony in China, a fresh start and growth in Korea and vitality and life in Japan, making it a thoughtful gesture for the new year.
Founded by Sandra Chiu, a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and master of science in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Lanshin’s collection of beauty products will help you start the new year off with a focus on wellness. From award-winning gua sha tools to a curation of replenishing skin care, the AAPI-owned beauty brand’s offerings support the skin and body through TCM principles and ingredients.
“Things that support your loved one’s health and vitality make ideal gifts,” Chiu shares. “Health is highly valued in East Asian culture, and we are often asking after each other’s health, especially of our elders.”
"The Double Happiness Set, which features two Lanshin Hot Massagers by Acera, with special pricing is perfect because we love health and doubles are considered lucky in many Asian cultures," Chiu says.
Lanshin's tools are made in a number of natural stones, and the jade versions are great for Lunar New Year. "The Lanshin Intro Gua Sha Tool or Sculpting Spoon in jade are also ideal gifts because gua sha promotes health and jade is highly valued for its ability to generate and protect one’s health," Chiu explains.
Turn up the flavor of your Lunar New Year celebration with Fly By Jing’s delicious sauces and seasonings. Chengdu, the hometown of founder Jing Gao, is at the heart of the brand and where the products themselves are produced.
“I love making a steamed fish or hot pot for Lunar New Year, both of which symbolize abundance and togetherness, which is what the holiday is all about,” Gao shares. A jar of the fan-favorite Sichuan Chili Crisp and sweet and spicy Zhong Sauce are must-have accompaniments, of course.
The truly addictive Sichuan Chili Crisp balances heat, crispiness, savoriness and umami in a way that will make you want to put it on everything. It makes a great gift for a foodie at any time of year, but it's especially celebratory for Lunar New Year. “If you are gifting someone for whom this year is their zodiac birth year, make sure it has some element of red in it, for good luck,” Gao says. “You are covered in this department with the Sichuan Chili Crisp.”
Gao also suggests this gift box packed with all the Fly By Jing signature flavors: Sichuan Chili Crisp, Chili Crisp Vinaigrette, Xtra Spicy Chili Crisp, Zhong Sauce and Mala Spice Mix.
Highlighting women-owned brands, Pink Moon offers a selection of skin care, cosmetics and home products that boost holistic wellness and are influenced by TCM. With the ability to shop by ritual (astrology, TCM, aromatherapy and more), you can find what resonates with you. Recently, founder Lin Chen introduced the marketplace’s own line of astrology-themed skin care, Once In A Pink Moon, which is influenced by TCM, Ayurveda and the astrological elements.
Chen says this brightening moisturizer is fitting for Lunar New Year since the holiday always falls on the Aquarius new moon. It combats dull winter skin with ingredients like niacinamide and peptides, and also contains licorice root, a TCM element that nourishes qi (energy flow).
According to Chen, anything with citrus is a good Lunar New Year gift, as it "calls in luck, joy and creativity." This vibrant perfume oil is made with a blend of orange, mandarin, lavender, rosemary and cedarwood essential oils. To top it off, it features a yellow topaz rollerball and crystals within the bottle for abundance, protection and harmony, and has been treated by reiki master Jackie Ho.
Pepper was created by smaller-chested ladies for smaller-chested ladies. The lingerie brand specializes in bras made for AAA, A and B cup sizes. Featuring shallower cups, light padding and soft and stretchy fabric, the bras are perfectly supportive and will never gap. Pepper also carries underwear, so you can feel confident in a complete set.
For the holidays, the brand released a limited-edition Cayenne color, which is perfectly suited for celebrating Lunar New Year. According to Kwong, gifting bright red underwear has become a cheeky way to bring luck into the new year: “It’s a popular modern tradition in some countries that observe Lunar New Year, especially between sweethearts.”
Strange Bird founder and artist Tina Chow Rudolf says the Year of the Rabbit “is all about peace” and thus marks a time to refocus on self-care and mindfulness. Whether you set a New Year’s resolution or continue to support healthy habits you established last year, everyone can benefit from taking the time to reconnect with themselves. Strange Bird supports this through its skin care and wellness rituals.
With a touch of red to symbolize good fortune and abundance, Rudolf says this soothing roller ball "would be a perfect little treat for anyone."
To enhance your self-care ritual, a sound bath can amplify good vibrations and help ground your practice.