2023: Symbols and Sentiments


Wes Phipps

Digitally constructed image by Wes Phipps depicts a bunny, this year’s Chinese Zodiac. The color reflects Pantone’s “Color of the Year: 2023,” Viva Magenta. “It has a very earthy tone. To me it says volcanoes, and other natural things. It’s almost a blood red,” Bradstreet said of the color.


New Year’s changes and continuities 

Life is complicated. New years are hard. The pressure of making and keeping resolutions haunts many at the start of each year. But as weeks go by, many of those many give up and fall back into old habits.

The new year is a polarizing time, often splitting the world in two groups: those taking pride in their resolutions and those poking fun at the tradition. From December to late January, people take to social media to share their thoughts on the subject. Twitter and Instagram are overrun by new years posts, and the trending hashtags reflect the world’s obsession with New Year’s Day.

In America, the idea of bettering oneself is magnified by New Year’s Day. As of 2023, the most common resolutions for Americans include improved mental health, improved fitness and weight loss.

“As a society, or country, we’ve marked [Jan. 1] as the new year. It’s nice to have that annually, but it’s something we should probably always be thinking about,” science teacher Andy Bradstreet said.

Bradstreet acknowledges that change doesn’t happen overnight, as implied by the popular ‘new year, new me’ mindset. He has learned “over the many years” that the start of a new year doesn’t give rise to sudden motivation.

Bradstreet has stopped making New Year’s resolutions. “They don’t last very long,” Bradstreet said. “Every time I do make them, about three days later I’ve already broken them.”

Instead, he believes in more frequent check-ins on his own time. “I like the idea of occasionally stepping back, taking a look at yourself and seeing if things could be better or worse,” Bradstreet said. “I think that can happen throughout the year.”

Junior Niha Shyamkumar agrees that the ‘new year, new me’ attitude can be harmful, but feels differently about the meaning of a new year.

“I feel good about this year and I think it’s important to celebrate for me because it’s the last year before I grow up,” Shyamkumar said.

While many look to the future, Shyamkumar looks to the past and takes those lessons and earnings into the new year. She reflects on 2022, with all of its ups and downs. “Last year I made a lot of difficult decisions and changes, like moving here,” said Shyamkumar, who transferred to Prosper ISD at the beginning of the school year. She is just now settling in at Rock Hill and hopes to make more friends in 2023.

Shyamkumar has a simple, yet momentous resolution that will manifest itself in her day-to-day life.

“I want to enjoy life as much as I can,” Shyamkumar said. She works to accomplish her goal by doing things she enjoys more often, such as spending time with her golden retriever, Mango, and eating ramen noodles.

Pantone’s purpose

At the turn of the century, Pantone, the “leading source of color expertise,” launched Color of the Year, a project meant to “draw attention to the relationship between culture and color.”

Color of the Year has become a worldwide trend, one especially valuable for designers. Each year, established and growing companies alike collaborate with Pantone to boost their sales and partake in a celebration of color. In 2023, these companies include Motorola in Chicago, IL and Cariuma in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, among others.

Beyond design and marketing tactics, though, Pantone creates a culture that unites the world.

Viva Magenta

Starting in 2000, the paint company Pantone has released a “Color of the Year,” setting the tone of the year to come. This year, it’s Viva Magenta, a shade “rooted in nature descending from the red family.”

On their site, Pantone displays digitally constructed images portraying trees, dresses, and abstract designs in Viva Magenta.

“It feels like I’m in someone’s mind, so I imagine it’s [going to be] a year of inner growth,” Shyamkumar said.

Bradstreet observes this year’s color through a scientific lens, as if dissecting it under a microscope. “It has a very earthy tone. To me it says volcanoes, and other natural things. It’s almost a blood red,” Bradstreet said.

Similarly, Pantone’s Executive Director, Leatrice Eiseman, explains the shade is a result of “drawing inspiration from nature and what is real.”

Chinese Zodiac

Adopted from Taoism and Buddhism, the Chinese lunar calendar dates back to the dynasties of Ancient China, though it was not fully defined until the 14th century B.C.E. As the name suggests, it follows the cycles of the moon. Both calendars have 12 months in a year. However, the Chinese calendar defines a month as a full lunar cycle, starting and ending with a new moon.

Much like western astrology, the Chinese zodiac appoints a sign (typically an animal) to each of these 12 rotations. It is believed that the zodiac animals correspond to Feng Shui and its five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water– and that together– they indicate personality and determine fate.

“I don’t necessarily believe in astrology,” Shyamkumar said. “But I think it’s interesting and sometimes the stereotypes turn out [to be] true.”

Year of the Water Rabbit

The Chinese New Year was celebrated Jan. 22, ringing in the year of the Water Rabbit for the first time since 1963.

According to The Chinese Zodiac, “The year of the Water Rabbit is the year to take a step back, assess the situation, and make a plan.”

In Chinese culture, rabbits represent patience, longevity and peace. However, similar to their behavior in the natural world, rabbits are perceived as timid and non-confrontational and avoid conflict at all costs.

Though the symbol holds a specific cultural significance, its meaning can be interpreted differently by those outside of Chinese culture.

“To me, rabbits are fast, so maybe that means 2023 will be a productive year. At least I hope so,” Shyamkumar said.

Refresh and reflect

Whether with a customized color or an animal, people around the world attribute symbols and sentiments to new beginnings such as the new year. This reflects our need as humans to search for meaning in life.

The celebration of the new year is often short-lived as evidenced by weak resolutions. This may be in part because of the anticipation associated with New Year’s Day. The excitement concerning a new beginning also tends to dwindle after a week into January.

Bradstreet realizes this and tries to understand the attraction of resolutions. He contemplates the gravity of a “small change at the beginning of each year” in the grand scheme of things.

“From a biology standpoint, we are constantly replacing ourselves. So, are we even the same person?” Bradstreet said.