The Year of Many Dragons: 8 Things to do for Chinese New Year's Day

Chinese New Years, 17 February 1961. Bill Hong; Mayor Norris Poulson; Julie Li. Courtesy of USC Libraries

Were you born in the Year of the Dragon? If you were, you are driven, you love challenges, a risk taker and you do it all with flair; yet, there is a feeling of being unfulfilled and exhaustion from being the Dragon. The Dragon is the 5th sign of 12 and the only mythical animal in the Chinese Zodiac. Every 12 years the Zodiac repeats, the 12 animals that appear on the Chinese Zodiac calendar in this order are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

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Every year our family would celebrate Chinese New Year's with multi-course dinners, and red envelopes called "Lai See" given to the children filled with Lucky Money. Mandarin oranges, dried fruit, dumplings, taro cakes (our version of the latke), fish, and long life noodles are just part of the menu. It is our version of Thanksgiving and New Year's rolled into one day, with the addition of firecrackers and dancing dragons.

Testing the Waters

This year is the Water Dragon, each year is an element-metal, water, wood, fire and earth. The water calms the Dragon and it is a year where we can see other points of view. The Chinese believe that the dragon is unpredictable and untouchable. A Dragon spinning in the air, it is hard to see see its head and tail at the same time. Therefore, we might see something unexpected happening in 2012. This coming Presidential election will be like the Dragon, you will not be able to see heads or tails till it lands. President Obama was born in the Year of the Metal Ox, while Mitt Romney is a Fire Pig, Gingrich is a Water Goat, Rick Perry is a Metal Tiger, Jon Huntsman is a Metal Rat, and lastly Santorum is an Earth Dog. Naturally Metal Oxen are not compatible with Fire Pigs.

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Gung Hay Fat Choy means "Best wishes and Congratulations, have a prosperous and good year" in Cantonese and is a proper salutation to family and friends on New Year's Day. To celebrate Chinese New Year, which this year is on Monday, January 23rd, you can venture down to Chinatown and get a front row seat on North Broadway. The Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles will be holding its 113th Golden Dragon Parade on Saturday January 28th at 1:00pm. For more information go here.

If you want to have a prosperous new year, here are a few things that we do for New Year's Day:

1. Clean the house before New Year's Day, this washes away the dirt of the year before.

2. Buy new clothes, get a hair cut, and shoes, for a fresh start in the new year.

3. A red piece of clothing for the New Years brings good luck, because it is the color of luck.

4. Prepare something sweet for New Year's day, to bring sweetness to the New Year.

5. Remember that the Chinese New Year is considered as the new beginning, which literally means, let bygones be bygones.

6. Red paper on your door will bring you luck. Chinatown sells the lucky red New Year's paper for doors, but if you can't get to Chinatown, a nice piece of red paper will do.

7. On New Year's Day, we are not supposed to wash our hair because it would mean we would have washed away good luck for the New Year.

8. Go to Chinatown for the Dragon Dance and firecrackers. Firecrackers scare off the bad spirits so that only good spirits will begin the New Year.

And a Gung Hay Fat Choy to you and to your families! All the best in the new year!

Artist, designer and teacher Ophelia Chong explores her adopted city of Los Angeles with an eye and ear for the small moments that tests the duality of being an Asian American. Join her on her journey every Thursday on KCET's SoCal blog

About the Author

A true multi-tasker: illustrator, designer, teacher, networker and writer of short blasts of pent up hot air.
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