(Chinese) New Year, New Me: Celebrating the year of the fire rooster


Photo credit: Carina Oriel

This is me, wearing red, eating noodles from Din Tai Fung and holding my hongbao at The Americana’s Chinese New Year Celebration in 2016. Chinese New Year is one of my favorite holidays. 2017 is the year of the Fire Rooster; since I was born in 2000, I am a Golden Dragon.

Dancing with dragons, lighting lanterns, receiving red envelopes and feasting with your family. What’s not to love about the Chinese New Year?

For many, their new year starts on Jan. 1, the first day on the Gregorian calendar. However, many people also celebrate the Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year. In Asia, it’s typically enjoyed in places with large Chinese populations, such as Mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.

This holiday marks the beginning of the Chinese lunisolar calendar, based on the cycle of lunar phases. The celebration lasts 15 days and begins with the new moon and culminates with the full moon. Because of Chinese legends, each year has a zodiac sign and element symbol that shapes the astrology of the people born in that year. Zodiac signs repeat every 12-years and every 5-years for element shapes. Every 60 years, the zodiac and element-signs recur.

In 2017, the Chinese New Year began on Jan. 28 and ends on Feb. 11. The zodiac animal for this year is the fire rooster — but don’t celebrate too soon roosters. Your birth sign year is actually the most unlucky one in the 12-year cycle. Don’t worry, there are things you can do to still find luck this year.

Chinese New Year has always been a tradition in my house. There are numerous ways to celebrate in Los Angeles, like visiting the annual festival and parade in Chinatown. Last year, we visited The Americana at Brand in Glendale and participated in their celebration. We watched cultural onstage performances, including lion and dragon dances and stilt walkers. I enjoyed eating xiaolongbao from Din Tai Fung and receiving hongbao, red envelopes filled with money.

The customs associated with the holiday differ depending on the individual regions of China, but some popular traditions leading up to the holiday include traveling away from home, buying new clothes and cleaning up the house. On New Year’s Eve, people attend family reunions and enjoy a lavish dinner. On the first day, celebrants visit relatives, exchange hongbao and wear their new red clothes. On the final day, celebrations end with a lantern festival.

There are ways to celebrate no matter where you live. Doing any of these rituals will ensure you have a prosperous year ahead of you. And if you didn’t keep your Jan. 1 New Year’s Resolution, consider the Chinese New Year to be a second chance to start the year off right.

Even if you don’t usually celebrate this holiday, it is always fun to lean into the spirit of diversity and take time to appreciate the holiday and experience what it has to offer.

If you want to find out more information about the origin of Chinese New Year, the zodiac signs and traditions, check out this animation made by Panda Express.