Chinese New Year in New York is a raucous festival of dragons, firecrackers, food, and celebration! The annual “Spring Festival” is not only the most popular festival in China but also across the five boroughs with the annual parade and dragon boat festivals drawing thousands to participate, watch, and enjoy.
In 2019, Chinese New Year falls on Tuesday, February 5, making this the year of the pig. Legend has it that the Buddha invited all of the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. When only twelve animals arrived, the Buddha named a year after each of them in the order of their arrival.
To celebrate the year of the pig, we have collected eight (a lucky number in Chinese culture) easy and exciting ways for you to create family memories and have fun while learning more about one of the world’s richest cultures.
8 ways to celebrate Lunar New Year:
1. Get Talking!
Xin Nian Kuai Le 新年快乐 (Happy New Year)! Did you know that Mandarin is the most widely-spoken language in the world? For young learners, Mandarin is a valuable second language, opening up the future of business, technology, and communications. As a bonus, recent studies show learning Mandarin as a child, more than any other language, can stimulate development.
2. Get Painting!
Decorate your house in red and gold to usher in the New Year. In China red and gold are considered lucky colors since they are believed to convey happiness and prosperity. Traditionally, paper scrolls and signs with Chinese characters represented good fortune and were displayed on doors and walls. A brush painting class can bring this art form to life in your home.
3. Get Giving!
Another great family tradition during the Chinese New Year is to exchange red envelopes (ang pow), usually filled with money, that carry good wishes and luck to family members. Share “red envelopes” with organizations you admire by making donations to beneficial charities, or start a tradition in your family of depositing money in a college savings account, travel fund, or other collection designed to broaden your horizons.
4. Get Moving!
If you haven’t hit the gym despite making one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions, make Chinese New Year your second chance to get a bit fitter. Tai Chi is an excellent way to improve your balance and muscle strength while calming emotions and active minds. Since it can be done anywhere, even while sitting, Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese practice easily incorporated into contemporary schedules and routines.
5. Get Eating!
A traditional meal served during the Chinese New Year feast won’t weigh you down like Thanksgiving dinner, but it will be heavy with symbols and meanings. Start your dinner with dumplings for a successful New Year, continue with rice cakes to increase prosperity and finish with citrus fruits for a long and healthy life. Book your own feast around one of the celebrated locations like Manhattan’s Chinatown or Flushing, Queens. If you don’t have time for the whole banquet dinner, stop by a Chinese bakery for traditional Spring Festival treats like Jian Dui (sesame seed balls) and Dan Tat (egg tart).
6. Get Looking!
From scrolls and screens to sculpture and painting, Chinese art has defined many traditional methods and is incubating exciting new forms of expression. Ring in the year of the pig with a visit to the Museum of Chinese Art, Asia Society and Museum, the Rubin Museum, or China Institute’s Gallery. There is much to explore throughout New York!
7. Get Gaming!
Board games are popular in China, especially during the New Year. One of the most popular games is Go 围棋 (also called weiqi), the oldest game still played in its original form though the rules are simple: there is endless room for strategy and planning, requiring the integration of analytic (left brain) and artistic (right brain) mental abilities. As, Go is popular in China among men and women of all ages and can be a fun activity to integrate into Family Game Night or to mark the celebration of Chinese New Year!
8. Get Together!
Chinese New Year is primarily about spending time with family and friends. To ensure a good start to the year of the pig, join organizations like China Institute and others that will be running a full slate of programming and experiences for their communities.
New York is a place where learning more about Chinese culture is fortunately easy. In this time of great distrust and challenging political times, it is up to each of us to take the initiative to learn more and increase understanding. The year of the pig is the perfect opportunity to do so.
To learn more, visit chinainstitute.org!