Terra Linda Families Celebrate Lunar New Year


Chloe Hu

Each year nations around the globe celebrate New Year’s on Jan. 1, following the Gregorian calendar. However, various countries across Asia use a different calendar known as the Lunar calendar, which follows the moon’s monthly cycles. The start and end date will differ from year to year, beginning anywhere from January 21 to February 20. The many places that observe this holiday result in a vast range of celebrations and cultural traditions. This year Lunar New Year falls on Jan. 22, marking the beginning of the holiday and a transition from the year of the tiger to the year of the rabbit or cat—depending on the culture celebrating the new year.  

Here in the bay area, there are many private gatherings, as well as the annual San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade, which is a mix of both the traditional Chinese Lantern Festival and American parades. Though, very little could compare to the celebrations in China, where the roots of this holiday run deep. 

Xiarong Chen, a parent, and member of the TL community recalls the traditions back in her home city Tian Jin, China. The Lunar New Year is a huge deal in Tian Jin. Most people get two weeks off from work and school. Airports, trains, taxis, and roads are packed with people trying to get back to their families to celebrate. Homes and buildings are thoroughly cleaned and lined with red decorations believed to bring in good luck. Households will often begin preparing food a few days prior to New Year’s Eve, just assembling the dishes on the day of. Xiaorong recalls how her mother used to make her favorite assorted vegetables, saying, “She used to take out and prepare the veggies by soaking the mushrooms two days in advance.” This saves time for the family to make dumplings together before dinner. While enjoying the assortment of foods many people will also watch the famous variety show by CCTV, Chun Jie Wan Hui (Chinese New Year Gala), which broadcasts from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. the next day. Once the meal is finished people will eat snacks like peanuts, sunflower seeds, and dried plums, and drink tea while watching and chatting until midnight. 

Households will go into the street or courtyard and set off fireworks for twenty minutes as it’s believed that these loud sounds will scare off evil and unlucky spirits. The first day of the New Year is spent giving or receiving red envelopes, while couples usually go to visit the husband’s side of the family. The next day is dedicated to seeing the wife’s side and the third is generally for spending with friends. Chen moved to the US in the 1990s. Since then, Chinese New Year is a lot smaller and less regarded, but she still spends each one with her family. This year she hopes to enjoy a nice hotpot lunch with them. These are all aspects that Xiaorong along with many other people have enjoyed from year to year, but there are also many smaller local celebrations. 

Vietnamese TL Sophomore, Brian Luu, also celebrates Lunar New Year. Although, he describes that, “Because Vietnam and China are so close together a lot of the ways they celebrate are very similar or basically the same.” Similar to China, Vietnam has twelve zodiac animals, a separate one each year, though they still differ. While in 2023 China will celebrate the year of the rabbit, Vietnam will have the year of the cat. Each year, Brian and his family go to his aunt and uncle’s house for a whole-day family gathering on New Year’s. His cousins will all chat, while the moms gossip and the dads go down to the basement to watch football together. Unfortunately, they were unable to meet for a few years due to the Covid outbreak, luckily this year they’re back and ready to party. Brian says that despite being a picky eater, he really enjoys the spring rolls served at the family meals. Nevertheless, he says by far the best part of the celebration is the red envelopes and money he receives, given that he inherits $20-$100 per person, meaning he walks away with around $500 at the end. He spoke fondly of a local church that held celebrations, with lion dances, games, and kids his age to play basketball and other sports with. There are so many ways people celebrate Lunar New Year, each one unique and exciting. 

Though it’s less popular in Marin, this holiday has spread widely throughout the world and continues to be one of the most celebrated. Not only are there family events, but many public ones too. These allow anyone to experience Lunar New Year and enjoy good fresh food along with many new traditions and activities.