Lunar New Year has always been my favorite holiday. Growing up in San Diego as a Chinese-Vietnamese-American, I took pride in educating others about the holiday, which is celebrated by an estimated 1.5 billion people around the world. Today, I take pride in celebrating with my own children.
Lunar New Year is the celebration of the first day of the year, according to the lunisolar calendar, and the celebration of the spring season. In many Asian countries, Lunar New Year is celebrated for 15 days. In the U.S., many Asian-American communities celebrate it for three days.
In China and Vietnam, the Lunar New Year is defined by an animal of the zodiac. This year, Chinese are celebrating the Year of the Rabbit while the Vietnamese are celebrating the Year of the Cat.
If you’ve celebrated the Lunar New Year, you may know that celebrations are filled with red decorations, which is considered the color of good luck, and lion dances, which symbolize courage. Celebrants will also eat symbolic foods, such as oranges for health or noodles for longevity. To prepare for the new year, many families will clean their homes, buy new clothes or cut their hair as a symbol of new beginnings.
Luckily for San Diegans, there are plenty of celebrations around the county that allow children (and adults) to learn about the festive and important holiday. Here’s a roundup of events around town:
My favorite tradition with my family is celebrating the new year with dim sum at Jasmine Seafood, one of the oldest Chinese restaurants in San Diego. Each new year, Jasmine Seafood will host lion dances for customers. This year, the lion dances will take place at 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Jan. 21 and Jan. 22 and at 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 28 and Jan. 29. Be sure to bring red envelopes with cash to feed the lions (or the volunteer dancers). For more information, go to jasmineseafood.com.
Other scheduled lion dances around town include:
San Diego Lunar New Year Festival
Hosted by the Little Saigon Foundation, the San Diego Lunar New Year Festival will take place at the cultural performances, live music, food and lifestyle vendors, arts and crafts and more. The free event takes place from Jan. 20 to Jan. 23 at Officer Jeremy Henwood Memorial Park in San Diego. For more information, go to lunarnewyearfestival.org.
Chinese New Year Festival at House of China
Head to Balboa Park for an annual celebration hosted by the House of China. The free event, which takes place Jan. 21 to Jan. 22, will feature lion dances, musical performances, foods and arts and crafts. For more information, go to houseofchinasd.com.
San Diego Tết Festival
The San Diego Tết Festival at Mira Mesa Community Park remains one of my favorite celebrations in the region. It is hosted by hundreds of volunteers of the Vietnamese American Youth Alliance — many of whom are high school or college students — who work all year to raise money and plan for the free, three-day event. The event, which takes place Jan. 27 to Jan. 29, includes a Cultural Village, the Miss Vietnam Pageant, a dance competition, food vendors, rides and more. For more information, go to sdtet.com.
Chinese New Year Festival
The 40th annual San Diego Chinese New Year Fair will take place in the Gaslamp Quarter from Feb. 4 to Feb. 5. Hosted by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) of San Diego, visitors can expect an assortment of live entertainment, including Asian Story Theater, lion dances and a folk dance. For more information, go to sdcny.org.
Have a Lunar New Year celebration to add to the list? Comment below.
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