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How to Celebrate Chinese New Year at Home

Gung hay fat choy! Sun neen fai lok!  Literally this means, “Congratulations on your prosperity!  Happy New Year!”  Try that one out on your Chinese friends, and you will impress them all.  

Lunar New Year begins on Friday, February 12 and lasts until February 26.  The first week of the new year is so special that many Asian countries shut down services and offices so families can travel to see their relatives and celebrate together. 

Just so you know, 2021 is the Year of the Ox.  According to the Chinese zodiac, those with birth dates in 2021, 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961, 1949, 1937 and so on, are believed to be diligent, patient, and hardworking.  As the ox is revered as a valuable farm animal, those born on the years of this creature are regarded as persistent, fair, calm, and inspiring.  

While organizers have cancelled the San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade, folks can still celebrate with Chinese traditions and foods at home.  Here are a few ideas to personalize your Lunar New Year to make it special.


1.  Distribute lucky red envelopes or “hung bao” to children and single adults if you are older.   Chinese traditionally pass out a pair of envelopes with a pair of fresh bills inside to represent double happiness.  However, never should the total add up to four which also means death in Chinese.  Other options instead of money: Starbucks gift cards artfully decorated with Year of the Ox or gold foil chocolate coins.  You can buy red packets at any Chinese grocery or stationary store.  Even some Hallmark stores are carrying them.  These days you’ll find lucky money envelopes in a variety of colors with various cartoon characters printed on them.  

2.  Create a dinner with traditional Chinese New Year foods.  These are symbolic dishes, each with positive meanings.  A few include: whole chicken with the head and tail for togetherness, steamed dumplings representing money pouches; whole steamed fish for abundance, longevity noodles for long life, spring rolls or egg rolls that signify gold bars.  You can order an entire dinner at a local Chinese restaurant.  Chinese and Vietnamese families typically gather on New Year’s Eve for a “reunion” dinner feast and on the last night of the holiday.

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3.  Watch Chinese New Year presentations on Zoom and on television.  On Wed., Feb. 10, watch a Zoom presentation called the SF Neon Chinatown Tour from the Chinese Historic Society of America Museum (see On Saturday, February 13, watch our SF Chinatown book slideshow on Zoom, sponsored by the San Jose Museum of Art (see  And on Saturday, February 20, turn on your TV to see KTVU’s retrospective of past Chinatown parades at 6 p.m.  

4.  Buy new clothes.  Yes, you heard that right.  To ring in the new year, Chinese invest in spanking new outfits, especially for the children. Here’s your excuse to participate in a cultural experience without feeling guilty!

5.  Clean your house prior to the New Year, Feb. 12. This act says goodbye to the previous year and hello to a fresh beginning.

6. Post Chinese proverbs around your house.  You can find these small red posters with Chinese characters often with themes of success, harmony, and peace.  Find these in Chinatown’s many stationary stores starting now.  

7.  Decorate your home with cherry blossom branches and Mandarin oranges with the stems and leaves on them to represent secure relationships.  This is a common gift to bring to someone’s home during the season for well wishes. 


We encourage you to try one or all of these activities to discover joy and delight in the Year of the Ox. 

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