“Xin Nian Kuai Le! Chúc Mung Năm Moi! Happy New Year!”
Whether you are Chinese, Vietnamese, or Filipino, this year’s Lunar New Year is scheduled on February 10, 2013, the year of the snake.
“It’s our chance to embrace our cultures and share it with friends and family,” said Thuy Dam, Denver resident from Vietnam and owner of beauty and wellness mobile business Asteria Salon.
Last year, Dam celebrated Chinese New Year with friends at Cholon Bistro in downtown Denver. This year, she is planning her Chinese New Year celebration at Parallel Seventeen.
Chinese New Year brings out the superstitious side of the Asian persona. For example, Julie Tagorda, my Filipino maternal grandmother who traced her heritage to China, always cautioned family members to clean the house before New Year’s so abundance and prosperity can pour into the household. If you clean on New Year’s Day, you may be cleaning away all your fortunes.
Another popular tradition is giving red envelopes. Godparents, grandparents, aunts and uncles will hand out red envelopes to children as a way to bless them for the New Year. Sometimes, the red envelopes contain chocolates covered with gold foil or cash in the denominations of $1s, $5s, $10s or $20s.
At her dinner last year, Dam passed out red envelopes, containing lottery scratchers. Some of her guests won $1 or $5 just by scratching the Colorado tickets, delighted by the small treasures.
While celebrating these small traditions, schools have taken this opportunity to teach children the diverse cultures throughout Denver. School director Dr. Punam Bhatia of Montessori Casa International integrated a lion dance for the Lunar New Year celebration. The school, which offers Chinese language instruction, will showcase a puppet show as a way to teach the children and their families about the Asian cultures.
“The children will expand their world view about other cultures and make connections,” said Dr. Bhatia “We want to provide a cosmic view of the universe, respecting similarities and differences.”
The color red signifies wealth in Asian countries. In most celebrations, the color red is the dominant color. Most Asians believe new red clothes bring protection and luck for the New Year. Most Chinese paint their front doors red.
Business owners take the New Year’s Day as a time to increase their business ventures. Brewery owner Danny Wang is offering a special beer just for Chinese New Year. To honor the year of the snake, he is calling it the Snake Hug.
His brewery, Caution Brewing Company, at I-70 and Peoria Avenue in Denver, will sell the Snake Hug brew on February 10. Wang describes the beer as a chile-based libation created with Asian ingredients. It will be a limited offering, depending on demand.
While Wang takes New Year’s Day as a time to showcase a new product, Dam is hoping for a productive day for her beauty and wellness enterprise. She believes being productive on New Year’s Day will mark the beginning of an abundant and blessed year for her business. “This is the day to focus on good energy,” Dam said.
Most Asian-American families take this opportunity to celebrate with banquets of food by heading over to local restaurants littered along Federal Boulevard. Common Chinese cuisines include fish, chicken, dumplings, and stir-fried vegetables. Each dish represents surplus for the upcoming year. For example, a whole chicken represents prosperity, while stir-fried vegetables symbolize good fortune.
Let’s take a look at the different countries throughout Asia and the differing traditions of Lunar New Year celebrations.
• Fireworks are used to fight away evil spirits.
• Houses are cleaned before New Year’s Day. All cleaning supplies are put away on New Year’s Eve. Cleaning on New Year’s Day could sweep away all good fortunes.
• Don’t wash your hair on New Year’s Day. It will wash away all the luck for the year.
• Seol-nal, also known as Korean New Year, lasts three days.
• Children perform a traditional bow to their elders, wishing them great prosperity throughout the upcoming year.
• Koreans wear a traditional dress called hanbok. This traditional hanbok shows vibrant colors and simple lines without pockets.
• Lunar New Year marks the arrival of spring, celebrating for about three days.
• Parents, family and friends who are married give money to unmarried people. The amount of money is always an even number for prosperity and abundance throughout the year.
• Gambling is a common leisure activity, representing wealth, fortune and spending. The most popular games include a dice game.
• Losar, the Tibetan New Year, lasts for two weeks. The main celebration is about three days, celebrated in both Nepal and India.
• Nine represent good fortune. Most dishes are made with nine ingredients.
• The color white is considered good luck.
• Lunar New Year is also known as White Moon holiday, usually celebrated two months after the first new moon.
• Gifts are exchanged among family members.
• Foods that are white such as rice, dumplings and dairy products are considered spiritually clean.
Each country shares a wealth of traditions, shared Dam on her viewpoint of the cultural diversity. “Life is part of celebration,” Dam said. “Rituals and traditions make it more memorable.”
Mary Jeneverre Schultz enjoys learning about superstitions associated with her Filipino heritage. Follow her on Twitter @Jeneverre.
How to Maximize the Lunar New Year in Denver
1. Chinese restaurants, especially those located on Federal Boulevard, will not accept reservations. It will be first come, first served. Be prepared to wait a long time for customer and food service. It is not a time to eat and run.
2. Community centers and Chinese organizations will provide day-long and weekend celebrations throughout the metro area. There will be many lion dance performances free for the general public. Just conduct an Internet search with Chinese New Year and Denver and a list of events will pop up for your review.
3. Check out student organizations on college campuses, most Asian/Asian-American organizations will showcase dances and cultural events leading up to Lunar New Year.