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Gung Hee Fat Choy!

Happy Chinese New Year!

January 23rd, marks the start of the Chinese New Year, with 2012 being the Year of the Dragon, more specifically, the Year of the Water Dragon.  Traditionally celebrations are held for fifteen days, this year ending on February 6.  Having said that, the Chinese New Year will be celebrated over differing periods in different areas.  For example, San Francisco’s Chinatown Lunar New Year activities started January 12 and pack over a dozen events into a six week schedule running all the way through the middle of February.

On Oahu the City & County of Honolulu holds Chinatown events started January 6th and ends January 28th, with everything from festivals to parades to the Narcissus Queen Pageant.  The Hilo Chinese New Year Festival will be held Saturday, February 11th, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., at the Kalakaua Park since Hilo does not have a “Chinatown” district.  On Saturday, January 28th, the Maui Mall is throwing its 13th annual Chinese New Year party with lion dancing, crafts and a fried rice cooking contest and food booths.

Traditions and Superstitions

Chinese believe that the entire house should be cleaned before New Year’s Day and on New Year’s Day, all brooms, mops, dust pans, and such should be put away.  There is even a specific method to the house cleaning that is traditionally followed.  Sweeping starts at the front door and everything is swept to the middle of the living-room floor, then swept into the corners…and left untouched or removed until the 5th day.

Chinese superstition believe that sweeping this debris out over the front door threshold is sweeping away a member of the family and also sweeping away any family good fortune.  That is why it must be swept “inward”, starting at the front door, then “carried out” via the backdoor, to avoid bad luck.

Chinese New Year is usually brought in by the use of fireworks!  It is their way of sending out the old year and welcoming the new.  All windows and doors should be left opened at midnight, New Year’s Eve, to allow the old year to leave.

Other Chinese New Year customs and superstitions include:

  • All debts must be paid off to start the new year,
  • Nothing is lent to anyone on New Year’s Day,
  • Foul language should not be used,
  • Ghost stories or mentioning of death or the dying should NEVER be mentioned,
  • Talk of the past year should be avoided and all focus on the coming year,
  • If you cry on New Year’s Day, you will cry all year…so even children are not spanked on New Year’s Day, but rather tolerated for the day,
  • You do not wash your hair on New Year’s Day because you would be washing out any good luck for the year,
  • Red is the favored color of dressing for the day (Chinese have always believed red to be a good luck color),
  • It is considered bad luck to greet anyone in their bedroom, so even the sick should dress and sit in the living-room,
  • Knives and scissors are not to be used on New Year’s Day to avoid “cutting off” any good luck.

While many of these superstitions and customs are not observed  today, (note all the Chinese restaurants that are open and using their knives), like many traditions, there are those who still do observe many of these practices.  One of my favorite New Year’s traditions is the “red money envelope” where money is placed and given to children (and the unmarried) as a token of good luck.  The Chinese refer to this as “lai see”.


Here is the remaining Chinese New Year activities scheduled for Honolulu’s Chinatown:

Saturday, January 14
Open to the Public, Free
8:00 am to 10:00 pm
Chinatown Merchants Association presents Lunar New Year Festival

In Chinatown and on the streets of Maunakea St., Pauahi St. and Smith St. This street fair will have four (4) main stages with various entertainment throughout the day and into the night. Live bands singing and playing all types of music for all ages, ethnic dancing, martial arts, lion and dragon dancing, local musical groups and any type of acts possible to “wow” the crowd. Vendors will be plentiful. Arts and crafts and food vendors selling any type of ethnic cuisine from all over the world. Vendors for children of all ages, bouncers, picture photos of ancient style China clothing, etc. A street fair that is great for tourist too!


Saturday, January 14
Open to the Public, Free
3:30 pm to 5:30 pm
Chinatown Merchants Association presents Night In Chinatown Parade

On and along Hotel St. starting from our State Capital to River St. This parade consist of eighty plus (80+) marching units. No restrictions on type of marching units and their performances. Parade participants include Queens and her courts, cultural organizations, kung fu martial artist, lion and dragon dance associations and a 150 foot dragon to end the parade.


Friday and Saturday, January 20 & 21
Open to the Public, Free
10:00 am to 10:00 pm
United Chinese Coalition presents Chinese New Year Festival

Chinatown Cultural Plaza. At this two-day event, food vendors provide a variety of Chinese and other Asian cuisine favorites. Exhibits and entertainment include feng shui presentations, arts and crafts vendors, martial arts demonstrations, Chinese fortune readings and Chinese dancing and singing. LAST CHANCE to get your Chinese New Year foods and gifts.


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