Gong xi fa cai! (Wishing you joy and prosperity in the New Year!) Yes…it is the holiday season when folks in Asia and the Asian diaspora come together to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Considered to be the most widely celebrated holiday in the world, we will be welcoming the Year of the Goat on February 19, 2015.
The Goat is the 8th sign in the 12-year Chinese Zodiac. People born during the Year of the Goat are thought to be calm, creative, gentle, and thoughtful. It is believed that they make excellent actors, musicians, pediatricians, and teachers. They enjoy working in teams.
Also known as “Chinese New Year” by the Chinese, “Tet” by the Vietnamese, and “Seolnal” by the Koreans, the holiday signifies a fresh start for happiness, health, good fortune, and prosperity. Celebrated over a 15 day period, reunion dinners and public celebrations are held where people eat special food, forgive grudges, give gifts, and shoot off fireworks. This is always my favorite part, especially when there is a string of 1 million lucky red firecrackers which is held up by a crane. Talk about a sensory experience for your ears, eyes and nose!
A favorite custom during the Lunar New Year is the performance of the traditional Lion Dance. In the Lion Dance, two very athletic performers mimic a lion’s movements in an elaborate costume. The dance is performed to the rhythmic beating of cymbals, drums, and gongs. During the dance, the lion performs the custom of cai qing (plucking the greens). This involves the lion eating the lettuce that is dangled in front of him and spitting it out. The lion may also eat oranges and then spit them out to the crowd for their good luck.
Additionally, Dragon Dances are performed. In the Dragon Dance, a team of performers raise and lower the dragon using poles. The number of performers varies based on the length of the dragon. A dragon is usually 112 feet long. The dance involves the dragon following the pearl of wisdom as it winds its way throughout the performance area to the beat of drums.
Sound like your cup of tea? If you live in Houston you have several opportunities to experience the Lunar New Year.
Your first opportunity is the Lunar New Year Festival held at the Chinese Community Center on February 14, 2015. The festival includes an Asian art exhibition, carnival games, cultural performances, delicious food, lion and dragon dances, raffle prizes, and souvenir shopping. The festival is free and open to the public and includes free parking.
Your second opportunity is the Lunar New Year Houston celebration held at the Viet Hoa Center on February 21-22, 2015. The celebration includes Asian food booths, lion and dragon dances, fashion shows, martial arts exhibitions, and musical performances. It all ends with a bang with a fabulous fireworks display. Admission and parking are also free at this event.
So…if you are in Houston, get out and about and celebrate the Year of the Goat which is predicted to be a special year of prosperity and well-being!