Texas Living

Honoring Lunar New Year Traditions in Texas

By Peter Simek 1.1.21

Many people are used to New Year’s Day being Jan. 1, but that’s not the case for the many cultures and nations who follow a calendar based on the cycles of the moon. In 2021, Lunar New Year begins Feb. 12.

The Lunar New Year is an important annual celebration for millions of people all over the world with roots in East and Southeast Asia. The Lunar New Year is celebrated in China, parts of Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Tibet, Vietnam, and a variety of other countries and cultures. And because Texas is a cultural melting pot (and many Texans have deep roots in Asian culture), Lunar New Year traditions have become a big deal in Texas too.

Lunar New Year Traditions

Lunar New Year takes place on the first new moon of the lunar calendar, which usually occurs between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20 on the Western calendar. The festival lasts for the 15 days leading up to the first new moon of the lunar year. Those two weeks are filled with celebrations, festivals, and other traditions that differ from culture to culture.

In Chinese culture, for instance, a popular tradition is to kick off Lunar New Year with a house cleaning. Sometimes called “the sweeping of the grounds,” houses are cleaned 10 days before the new moon to give a fresh start to the year and to remove bad luck. The new year is rung in with family and religious celebrations, with ceremonies performed that honor ancestors. On New Year’s Day, family members may receive small red envelopes containing a little money for the new year.

The Lunar New Year season culminates with the Lantern Festival. During the festival, colorful lanterns are lit in homes and in the streets of towns and cities. Special festival foods are served, including yuanxiao, sticky rice balls that symbolize family unity, and fa gao, a prosperity cake.

Chinese Zodiac

The Chinese Zodiac

According to the tradition of the Chinese zodiac, each new year of the lunar calendar is assigned one of 12 animal signs, which are intended to reflect the character of people born in that year. The animals’ origins are founded in numerous ancient myths. According to the tradition, people born in different years are compatible with people born in other years. For example, anyone born this coming lunar year — the year of the Ox — will find harmonious matches with people born in the year of Rat, which was last year.

The zodiac finds its inspiration in the stars. The 12-year cycle corresponds to the time it takes for the planet Jupiter to orbit the sun. Although it is known as the Chinese zodiac, the system is also popular in many East Asian countries, including Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand.

Celebrate lunar new year

Celebrating Lunar New Year in Your Home

Customs around Lunar New Year are deeply rooted in respect for family and ancestors, making the festival a great time to catch up with family and friends. Many Lunar New Year traditions take place around food and feasts — a great atmosphere for sharing in the lives of loved ones.

New years are traditionally also about making new starts: Start by cleaning your home, reaching out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, and diving into something you’ve been resisting.

Texas lunar new year tradition
Courtesy of Chinatown Center

Texas Lunar New Year Celebrations

In recent years, Lunar New Year Celebrations have become popular around Texas. Unsurprisingly, the festivals mostly take place in Texas cities and suburbs that have the largest populations of people with roots in East Asian and Southeast Asian cultures. These are some of the most prominent celebrations statewide.

Celebration of Chinese New Year at the Fo Guang Shan Xiang Yun Temple, Austin
Austin’s Buddhist temple hosts a variety of events during the Lunar New Year season, including a lighting of a Lamp of Peace, the striking of the Happiness Bell, and a ceremonial First Incense Offering of the year.

Year of the Ox Celebration at Chinatown Center, Austin
The Chinatown Center in North Austin is filled with Asian shops and restaurants. During the Lunar New Year season, the center hosts a variety of activities, musical and martial art performances, and events.

Chinese New Year Festival, Dallas
Dallas’ Crow Museum of Asian Art has offered family-friendly performances at its downtown location for years, though last year it moved the event to NorthPark Center mall. The schedule includes multiple performances from traditional and folk-dance groups.

Lunar New Year Houston
Lunar New Year Houston is a two-day celebration that will take place at the Viet Hoa Center this year. The event features lion dances, martial arts demonstrations, and performances by dancers and musicians.

Texas Lunar Festival, Houston
Now in its 25th year, the Annual Texas Lunar New Year Celebration takes place each year at Houston’s Chinese Community Center. The program often includes dance performances from groups that represent a variety of cultures, as well as various art and music shows.

Chinese New Year at the River Walk, San Antonio
San Antonio’s largest Lunar New Year Celebration takes place along the city’s iconic River Walk, where illuminated floats and lanterns featuring images of flowers, trees, and animals take part in a magical parade.

Read more about Texas’ rich and diverse lifestyles.

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