Xin Nian Kuai Le! Gung Hay Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year! The Lunar New Year (also known as the Spring Festival in China, Tet in Vietnam, and Losar in Tibet) falls on Feb 8th this year, and Asian-American communities across the United States are gearing up for massive multi-day celebrations. This year will be the year of the Fire Monkey, whose traits are ambitiousness and adventurousness, so there’s no better time to head out and explore the many parades, festivals, and feasts being held around the country. Here are four cities with celebrations that are definitely worth making a trip to see.
1. San Francisco
San Francisco boasts not only the oldest Chinese New Year celebration in the country, but also the biggest. The party starts early and continues all month with dozens of events around the city. The festivities began with a procession of lion dancers, drummers, giant puppets, and entertainers last Saturday, as well as a weekend-long New Year Flower Market where shoppers picked up tangerine trees and lucky bamboo to decorate their houses. This past Sunday, the Asian Art Museum will hosted music and dance performances and hands-on art activities. Don't worry, you're not too late for the celebration: the holiday continues with performances and workshops at the California Academy of Sciences on Feb 4th and a concert and dinner at the San Francisco Symphony on the 13th. The biggest events are still to come, too: The Chinese New Year Parade on Market St. is on the 20th, and the Chinatown community street fair is on the 20th and 21st.
2. New York
New York has the largest Chinese population of any city outside of Asia, so it’s not surprising that it also hosts one of the largest Chinese New Year festivals. In fact, each of the city’s three main Chinatowns hosts its own festivities—and its own parade. In Manhattan’s Chinatown, there will be a firecracker festival on February 8th with a display of 500,000 firecrackers, dance performances, and booths to buy gifts, as well as the city’s main parade and festival, which takes place on the 14th. Out in Flushing, you can go to the Lunar New Year Dance Sampler on February 14th, eat chestnuts and candied fruit at the Chinese New Year Temple Bazaar on the 20th, and see local civic groups march in a parade on the 21st. And in Sunset Park there’s a lantern festival on the 28th. There’s also an exhibit of Chinese art at the Javits Center February 6th-9th, a fireworks display over the Hudson on the 6th (best seen by boat), and a concert and gala at Lincoln Center on the 9th.
3. Los Angeles
Chinese New Year in “La-La Land” has all the glitz and glamour (and movie tie-ins) that you’d expect from Hollywood. From February 5th-8th Disneyland will be decorated with red and gold banners, your favorite characters will dress up for the holiday, and the park will host special cultural performances. Not to be outdone, Universal Studios has a celebration from January 30th – February 14th with events like photo ops with Curious George and the Mandarin-speaking Megatron from Transformers. The greater Los Angeles area also hosts a huge array of more traditional events: There’s a Chinese New Year street fair in Monterey Park this weekend (Jan 30th-31st), a festival with dancers, singers, and artists at the Citadel Outlets on February 6th, a midnight ceremony at Thien Hau Temple, a fireworks show at the Port of LA, and a Golden Dragon Parade with family-friendly activities in Downtown Chinatown on February 13th.
4. New Orleans
Though most Americans think of this holiday as “Chinese” New Year, the Vietnamese also celebrate the lunar New Year. Tet, as the holiday is called, is the most important holiday of the year in Vietnam, and Vietnamese communities across the U.S. host their own celebrations every year. Perhaps the best place to experience Tet is in New Orleans, which is home to roughly 14,000 Vietnamese-Americans. This year there will be two public Tet celebrations. The biggest events will take place at Mary Queen Church of Vietnam February 12-14. The festivities begin with fireworks and dances on the evening of the 12th, followed by a weekend of traditional performances, fireworks displays, and food booths selling everything from spring rolls to pho. There will also be Buddhist services at the Bo Do Temple in nearby Belle Chasse.