Lunar New Year

Many countries and cultures observe Lunar New Year, particularly China, Vietnam, Singapore, Korea, and other China-influenced locales. It begins on the first new moon in the Western calendar in late January or February. The celebrations and traditions from southern China are most familiar to us because of the very long history and large presence of southern Chinese in California and the Delta region. This year, January 22, 2023, is New Year Day, and traditional celebrations and traditions continue until the Lantern Festival on the fourteenth day (full moon) and beyond. In China today, many traditions have not survived widely largely due to the Cultural revolution. In overseas Chinese communities, such as ours, many traditions continue to be carried on.

Here in our Delta region, with its rich history of early Chinese settlers, celebrations abound. This year Locke will revive its celebration event, after a Covid hiatus, on February 11. (Isleton will include their usual celebration this year wrapped into their 100-year anniversary celebration on May 14.) Here is the list of events in Locke, beginning at Noon on Saturday February 11:

Lion Dance
Martial Arts Demonstration
Tai Chi Demonstration
Flower Arrangement Presentation
Painting and Calligraphy Contest
Chinese Musical Performance
New Year Cooking Lecture
Free New Year Snacks
Red Envelope Money (for the first 100 visitors)

Chinese people prepare ahead of New Year Day by cleaning the house, getting new clothes ready, and preparing the many traditional foods, which often includes a vegetarian dish based on the diet of monks and nuns. The extended family gathers for a banquet when the older married folks give lucky money in red packets to the younger unmarried members, and the younger ones pay their due respects to their elders. At Chinese New Year celebrations, expect to see the Lion dancers as they proceed to very loud drumbeats from shop-to-shop collecting the money offerings suspended from the doorway. All the while, strings of firecrackers keep the evil spirits at bay.

This will be the Year of the Rabbit, based on the Chinese Zodiac cycle of 12 years. Those born during this year are said to be kind with a quiet personality that tends to hide their confidence and strength. In the Zodiac cycle (which begins with year of the Rat) Rabbit is followed by the year of the Dragon, then the Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig, Rat, Ox, and Tiger. Each one has its own character, and matchmakers consider the birth years of the proposed couple to find the most auspicious matches. You can find where you fit in this cycle with an online search for “Chinese zodiac.” Once you know a person’s Zodiac sign, you can usually figure out their age without asking directly!