The Lunar New Year or Spring Festival is commonly referred to as Chinese New Year, Tết in Vietnamese, Seollal (설날) in Korean, Losar ལོ་གསར in Tibet, and Tsagaan Sar in Mongolian. It begins on January 22, 2023. Families begin preparing weeks before, and celebrations last for two weeks until the Lantern Festival.
According to the zodiac calendar, this year will begin the Year of the Water Rabbit, which is known for longevity, peace, and prosperity. Traditions vary across geography and religion, but read on for a few ways to celebrate in AsiaTown!
Lunar Near Year Events in Northeast Ohio
Click here for a list of 2023 Lunar New Year event celebrations around Northeast Ohio!
Thank you, OCA Greater Cleveland, for compiling this list.
Preparing for the New Year
- Oranges and mandarins represent luck and success. Bring pairs of oranges with leaves as gifts for visiting elders and family.
- Kumquat plants are a key New Year decoration in Southern China, as the yellow fruits represent wealth and luck with harvests. Families also decorate with fresh flowers, like daffodils and butterfly orchids.
- Candy symbolizes happiness and sweetness, so purchase sweets to usher in a happy life in the new year. Dried fruits and candy plates are very popular in the southern parts of China. In Northern China, many families gather over melon seeds or nut snacks. Find a wide variety at any of the Asian grocery stores.
- Money trees appear in weeks leading up to the New Year, representing the generation of more good luck and money in the new year. Businesses place red envelopes on a kumquat tree or branches to bring prosperity.
- Decorate with fresh flowers. Some parts of China have held Flower Markets before the Lunar New Year for hundreds of years. The pussy willow is a particularly lucky flower, because its name in Chinese (yin liu) sounds like the word for “money flowing.”
- Purchase new clothes to wear on New Year’s Day.
- Red is considered a lucky color, representing happiness, beauty, good luck, and good fortune. Wear red and decorate with red during this festive season!
- Clean the whole house. Sweeping and cleaning in preparation for the New Year symbolizes sweeping away bad luck from the last year. This must be done before the New Year begins, or it symbolizes sweeping away the good luck for the new year!
- Cut your hair. It’s bad luck to cut your hair during the first month of the lunar calendar, so it is common practice to cut it in advance! In some regions, it’s very good luck to cut it on the second day of the second lunar month. Book an appointment with A9 Salon or Sun Hair Salon!
- Celebration calendar. Starting with the Little New Year 小年 (January 24) and leading up to New Year’s Day (February 1), each day carries traditional activities to prepare for New Year’s Day. For example, it is traditional to buy tofu six days before or a whole chicken four days before. On January 29, families may celebrate by decorating and preparing food for new year’s feasts. This includes hanging couplets and signs (hua) on doorways, or making dumplings and mantou 馒头. On New Year’s Eve, families gather to eat and exchange gifts.
Celebrating the New Year
- A traditional celebration welcomes in the new year with loud firecrackers and a lion dance.
- Wear new clothes on Lunar New Year’s Eve and Day.
- Give out red envelopes (hong bao) with money, especially to children.
- Gather with family to eat a New Year’s meal!
New Year’s Banquets and Feasts
- Nian gao 年糕. A vegan sticky rice cake symbolizing prosperity. Koko Bakery and LJ Shanghai.
- Banh tet. A savory Vietnamese sticky rice cake. Cut and steam or deep fry slices. Pho Lee’s.
- Fish. Symbolizes abundance, often eaten whole and steamed. Try the spicy steamed fish head at Sichuan Hot Pot or whole steamed fish at Siam Cafe.
- Dumplings. Symbolize wealth or good luck. Some regions add coins to the stuffing – whoever receives the coin is the luckiest for the year! For Korean New Year, mandu is lucky, too. LJ Shanghai, Han Kabob, or Miega.
- Noodles. Long noodles represent longevity. Get spicy beef noodle soup at Sichuan Hot Pot or order extra noodles with your rice noodle soups at Dagu.
- Lobster. A staple in new year’s banquets, try the sautéed lobster with ginger and scallion 姜葱吉祥虾 from Emperor’s Palace. Whole lobster signifies unity and marriage.
- Nuts and seeds. Families sit around tables and crack open trays of seeds (such as peanuts or melon seeds). Find them at any of the Asian grocery stores. Tink Holl, Good Harvest, Asia Food Co, Park to Shop.
- Lamb. This is a cherished meal in inner Mongolia and parts of Eastern and Northern China. Lamb dumplings are popular for Muslim communities in Northwest China. Order the Xinjian style lamb or lamb kabobs at Han Kabob.
- Duck. Representing fidelity, duck is a must-have at Lunar New Year feasts. Try the roast duck at Good Harvest Food Market, Peking duck buns at Siam Cafe, or Peking duck at Li Wah.
- Hot pot. Many families celebrate the New Year with hot pot. Order to-go or dine in at Sichuan Hot Pot or make your own! Find all necessary equipment and ingredients at Tink Holl, Park to Shop, and Good Harvest. Asia Food Co. is a favorite for hot pot meats.
- Chicken. Chicken represents flying to reach greater heights in the new year. The Chinese word for chicken also sounds like “accumulate,” symbolizing prosperity. Chicken soup is a beloved tradition. Try the three pepper chicken from Szechaun Cafe, Korean fried chicken at Korea House, or Szechuan chicken with Chinese eggplant 鱼香茄子鸡片 at Wonton Gourmet.
- Pork. In many families, New Year’s feasts feature all of the meat! Try the pepper pork belly fortune soup at Bo Loong, pork knuckle pot at Emperor’s Palace, or crispy sweet and sour pork 夫妻肺片 at Szechuan Gourmet.
- Shrimp. Walnut shrimp is another popular banquet dish. Shrimp represents happiness and laughter. Bo Loong, Li Wah, Siam Cafe, or mix it up with a shrimp dish at Map of Thailand.
- Rice cakes. Tteokguk is known as the Korean new year soup, bringing good fortune and prosperity, as the rice cake shapes resemble Korean coins. Ha Ahn, Rising Grill. Or find rice cakes to make at home at Kim’s Market.