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 February 16 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 Earth Dog, whose traits are loyalty, courage, and responsibility. 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 on February 10, as well as a weekend-long New Year Flower Market where shoppers picked up tangerine trees and lucky bamboo to decorate their houses. On February 18, the Asian Art Museum will host music and dance performances and hands-on art activities. Don’t worry, the holiday continues a concert and dinner at the San Francisco Symphony on Saturday, February 24. The biggest events are still to come, too: The Chinese New Year Parade on Market St. is on also on the 24 at 5:15 pm, and the Chinatown community street fair is on the 24 and 25.
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 19 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 February 25. See a parade in Flushing on February 17. Swing by Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall for free youth art exhibits and performances on February 16. Catch a fireworks display over the Hudson on February 14, and a concert and gala at Lincoln Center on February 20.
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 January 26 through Feburary 18 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 through February 28 with events like photo ops with Po and Tigress from Kung Fu Panda and the Mandarin-speaking Megatron from Transformers. The greater Los Angeles area also hosts a huge array of more traditional events: There’s a festival with dancers, singers, and artists at the Citadel Outlets on February 16 and 17, a midnight ceremony at Thien Hau Temple, and a Golden Dragon Parade with family-friendly activities in Downtown Chinatown on February 17.
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, the biggest Tet celebrations will take place at Mary Queen Church of Vietnam February 18-22. The festivities begin with fireworks and dances on the evening of the 18, 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.