Chinatown is celebrating the lunar new year in a big way in Honolulu! A month of activities including street parties, open houses, cultural activities and a huge parade leads up to February 14 when the Year of the Tiger begins. Often called the Chinese New Year, it is also celebrated in other Southeast Asian countries. Merchants in Chinatown include those of Vietnamese, Laotian, Thai, Filipino and Korean descent, as well as Hawaiian and Caucasian. Chinatown is a 15-block area of Honolulu that includes art galleries, museums, and studios as well as retail stores and groceries.

Popular activities are held year-round, including the monthly First Friday event when galleries and studios stay open for evening browsing. In the month preceding the new year, however, Chinatown pulls out all the stops. Although the exact date of the lunar new year changes each year, the Hawaii celebrations are usually held in late January and early February.

The lunar calendar is made up of months that form cycles. A full cycle takes 60 years and includes 12-year simple cycles. In those smaller cycles, 12 animals are assigned to the years. The Year of the Ox is now ending as the Year of the Tiger begins. In Chinese astrology, your horoscope is determined by the year you were born. The animal of your birth year is said to live in your heart.

Many customs are associated with the lunar new year. One involves giving money in red envelops along with a wish for a prosperous new year. Red new year’s greeting cards are sold in local stores and supermarkets. My favorite is the practice of cleaning the house thoroughly to sweep out all the bad luck from the previous year. I recently learned that many people then do not clean for two weeks after the new year to avoid sweeping out the good luck that has arrived. That’s the part I like.

Kung Hee Fat Choy!

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