10 Things To Do During Lunar (Chinese) New Year

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To those who celebrate, Happy Lunar New Year! Wishing you lots of happiness, good health, and good fortune in this year of the ram / sheep / goat (yes, all 3 animals represent the zodiac for this year). Chinese New Year, more referred to as Lunar New Year since multiple cultures celebrate it, is the first day of a secular year whose months are coordinated by the cycles of the moon. This important holiday is celebrated all over the world in many ways and thanks to this new law, even NYC schools will be closed on this day every year!

Yesterday was the first day of the 15-day celebration and my husband and I just couldn’t wait to get outside despite the single digit weather! He has been celebrating this holiday in the streets since he was a kid and I had been learning the traditions from inside my home since my baby days in Miami. It is definitely a huge part of our lives! (Can you tell from the excitement of my husband’s face in this flashback photo?)

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Forward 20+ years to today, we just had to grab our cameras and head out for the festivities! So we started on New Year’s Eve by walking alongside a group of lion dancers and drummers on Canal and Mott Street, and watching them perform in front of Ping’s Restaurant. Though it’s bitterly cold out, it was really worth the experience!

Want to join in on the festivities? Some of these events occur in NYC’s Chinatown or Flushing, and some have passed, but there is still a lot to partake in!  Here are a few things you can do to celebrate!

1)  Launch the year by heading to Canal Street at 11 p.m. on Chinese New Year Eve. You have a perfect excuse to make noise and not get in trouble because you’ll be walking alongside a huge crowd and policemen.

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2) Attend the annual firecracker ceremony at the Sara D. Roosevelt Park on New Year’s Day.  Firecrackers have been banned long ago, so this is the only time you’ll get to see them in the city!

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Thanks to some special friends, I was able to stand in the VIP area and took a video up close of the firecrackers for you! 🙂 (but PLEASE lower your volume! It gets LOUD!)

3) Walk along Chinese shops and parlors, and you’ll find decorations and blooming flowers everywhere. Be overwhelmed with the amount of choices you can buy in the shops. Pick up some meaningful red banners to hang, or red envelopes to give. Tradition is, if you’re married, you give red envelopes filled with money to children and retired seniors.

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4) Cook and enjoy a feast filled with symbolism and meaning for almost each item. Fish is a must as it represents longevity and abundance! I look forward to mom’s cooking every year and learning about why we eat each kind of food. It’s also one of the few times you might enjoy expensive foods such as abalone and sea cucumber! (If you want to see last year’s photos, click here!)

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5) Watch the annual parade and festival. Crowded, but worth seeing and enjoying at least once! This year, it will be held on Sunday, February 22nd at 1 p.m. beginning at Canal and Mott Street. The Flushing Parade will be on Saturday, February 21st at 11 a.m. You can stand by the Flushing Library. Tons of booths, foods, performances, and floats!

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(Photo credit above: www.dailynews.co.uk)

6) Visit friends and relatives homes and bring gifts with good wishes. Traditional gifts include oranges, papayas, chocolates wrapped in gold, and money.

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7) Join in one or two of the traditions that many families follow. A lot of people do different things, but here are a few I know:

Don’t wash your hair on New Year’s Day.
Visit family and friends and bring them gifts such as chocolates and oranges
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No cleaning, sweeping, or throwing out the garbage!
Be a vegetarian for the New Year Day.

8) Hang decorations related to goats / sheep / rams around your home. Be creative with making your own with the little ones. Just remember, red is very lucky! I picked up these handmade rams at a tent during the firecracker ceremony.

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9) Roam the streets looking for different groups of lion dancers. You’ll hear them almost anywhere on “Super Saturday,” which lies on February 28th this year. If you get close enough, give the lion a red envelope with money or touch it for good luck in the new year!

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10) Pop confetti-filled poppers .. and don’t feel guilty about the trash on the ground. Those sanitation trucks are AMAZING and all will be sweeped up within an hour! I saw it with my own eyes. 🙂

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Don’t miss out! It’s super fun to celebrate the New Year, and if you have any questions, as always feel free to mail me at that cute little envelope icon above!

You can also find more information through this interesting link I found (this link) or through the official NYC Chinatown website.

GONG HEI FAT CHOY, everyone, and thanks for reading!

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