January 1st isn’t the only mark of a new year worth celebrating. For thousands of years, people in China and beyond have celebrated the Chinese/Lunar New Year beginning on the day of the new moon between January 21st and February 20th.
Legend has it that Lunar New Year festivities began when a mythical beast dubbed Nian would terrorize communities, eating all of the livestock, crops, and even people who crossed its path. According to mythology, an old man named Yanhuang discovered that Nian feared loud noises and the color red, which inspired villagers to hang red lanterns and scrolls around their homes and light crackling bamboo to scare Nian away. Apparently, their efforts worked, resulting in the longstanding tradition of celebrating the Lunar New Year with fireworks (in lieu of crackling bamboo) and red costumes and decor.
In addition to lots of red and fireworks, the Lunar New Year is celebrated by sharing boundless traditional foods, like dumplings, spring rolls, noodles, and steamed fish. Each of the traditional dishes symbolizes something different. For instance, the noodles served during Lunar New Year celebrations are intentionally long, representing the longevity of life. The noodles are not meant to be cut and ideally they’re swallowed without chewing as the longer the noodle, the longer your life is expected to be.
The rich history, beautiful costumes, spectacular fireworks, and delectable fare have resulted in people all over the world partaking in Lunar New Year celebrations, including many in the United States. This year, the festivities begin on January 25th, spanning 15 days and initiating the Year of the Rat, and there are all kinds of places across the country to enjoy the traditions. Check out the best celebrations from L.A. to Miami below.
The Golden Dragon Parade has been a favorite Lunar New Year celebration for over 120 years, drawing thousands of people to L.A.’s Chinatown to enjoy the festivities. Head to N. Broadway on February 1st and you’ll find nearly two dozen floats, several marching bands, and a ton of delectable food begging for your enjoyment.
On January 25th, passengers are invited to hop aboard the Queen Mary for an unforgettable New Year celebration on the water. The massive boat will be meticulously outfitted in traditional decor and include a buffet dinner of Chinese fare, as well as performances that include Chinese martial arts, dragon and lion dances, ribbon dances, and face changers.
Miami’s Chinatown neighborhood has only been official for a year, but it’s celebrating that year in a big way with its 1st-annual Chinese New Year celebration. Taking place on January 25th, the event runs all day on NE 167th street and includes boundless food, plenty of traditional costumes, live dragon dances, sound-healing demonstrations, and a themed photo booth to commemorate the festivities.
The San Francisco Chinese New Year Festival & Parade is among the largest celebrations of its kind in the world, drawing more than 3 million in-person spectators and television viewers to the event. The 2.5-hour parade takes place on February 8th, beginning on Second and Market Streets, and includes live music, dancing, and plenty of delicious food.
If you’d like your Lunar New Year with a side of Disney fun, then head to Disneyland between January 17th and February 9th. The park is offering all kinds of Disney-infused ways to celebrate the Chinese tradition, including a Lunar New Year Procession helmed by Mulan herself, specialty menus celebrating Asian cuisine, and kid-friendly crafts and activities.
On January 25th, the Palm Beach Zoo is getting in on the Lunar New Year action with lots of themed activities for all ages. From 9 am to 2 pm, you can enjoy live cultural entertainment, including authentic dragon and lion dances, in addition to fortune cookie prizes. Plus, you can pay a visit the zoo’s resident modern-day dragon, the Komodo dragon.
The annual San Diego Chinese New Year Fair has drawn hundreds of people to downtown for more the 35 years, and given all of the fun festivities, it’s easy to see why. Taking place on February 8th-9th on Third and J Streets, the fair is totally free and features lion dances, kung fu, classical dance troupes, and all of the Chinese cuisine you can eat.