The Lunar New Year was celebrated around the world on Monday by cultures that follow a lunar calendar. The holiday, popularly known in the U.S. as Chinese New Year, is also celebrated by Vietnamese, Korean, Tibetan and Mongolian communities.
Lunar New Year is traditionally celebrated in China as a spring festival. It includes dragon dances, fireworks, and family meals. Older relatives give gifts of red envelopes, normally full of cash, to children. Family feasts, household cleansing, and other family traditions abound on Lunar New Year.
California has a diverse Asian population, with an estimated 2 million Asian Americans in the Bay Area alone. Oakland’s Chinatown Chamber of Commerce celebrates with the Lunar New Year Bazaar. The two-day celebration was held on Jan. 21 and 22 at the Pacific Renaissance Plaza in Oakland. The event featured cultural entertainment, traditional goods, food and other vendors.
Vietnamese Americans also celebrated the New Year on Jan. 23. The Vietnamese Hoi Tet Festival rang in the New Year with entertainment, tournaments, vendors and other family activities over the weekend. Turlock resident Ann Nguyen went to Stockton to celebrate the Vietnamese New Year. She said that in areas with larger Asian populations, people take a few days off work for the Lunar New Year.
“On the first day of the year they just enjoy themselves. It kind of sets the tone for the rest of the year,” Nguyen said.
Vietnamese New Year shares a similar zodiac calendar to the Chinese Zodiac. This is the Year of the Dragon for both zodiac systems. Nguyen said that 11 of the zodiac signs are shared between the two cultures, but last year was different. 2011 was the Year of the Rabbit for the Chinese Zodiac and Year of the Cat for the Vietnamese system.
“My daughter was born in the year of the Cat, so I had to explain the difference when we saw rabbits everywhere for the last New Year,” Nguyen said.
Other Californians who celebrated Lunar New Year enjoyed the holiday by taking part in festivals and trying their luck at poker and other games. The Dragon is considered the luckiest of all 12 zodiac signs, so celebrants were eager to test their luck at mock-gambling games. Lunar New Year also includes a tradition of wearing all new clothing from head to toe. Out with the old and in with the new sets the tone for the year.
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