Denver has a large Asian community, and Lunar New Year is a big celebration there! There is a place called the Far East Center which is an outdoor/indoor business space that has restaurants, stores with traditional artwork and food, bakeries with delicious treats, and even a place with freshly caught fish.
The first store that we went into had just about everything. It had a lot of really pretty tea sets as tea can be an important part of the culture. They also had many plants and greenery that was all throughout the store. Buddha is known to be an important part of the Lunar New Year Celebration. Some cultures that celebrate this new year are Buddhist cultures, and in honor of that, the stores sell golden Buddhist statues.
I also learned that artwork in Vietnam is very special – everything is created with a purpose and a lot of intention behind it. So, from the tea pots to the statues, to these gorgeous lamps, everything is unique and special. Several pieces of the artwork included the lotus flower, which is the national flower of Vietnam and symbolizes purity, optimism for the future, and commitment.
Another big aspect that is important for Lunar New Year is scaring the bad spirits away. This is done through the lion dances and firecrackers which create the loud noises to scare the spirits. It was really cool to see the traditional lion dances from dance and karate departments around the area. It is beautiful to see all of the hand-painted heads, and you can see the detail really well in the picture with the yellow dragon. At one point they all go through a restaurant in the Far East Center and interact with the people there, which is super cool to see.
It is also crazy to see how strong and flexible the dancers have to be in order to do such incredible things. They had a karate performance which I did not get the best video of, but it was super cool!
2023 is the year of the Rabbit in China, which symbolizes grace, beauty, mercy, and good luck. And the year of the cat in Vietnam, which symbolizes sensitivity, gentleness, and kindness. Every year they have an ice sculpture creating an ice statue of the animal with the year on it. They have so many different tools and saws that create the most detailed, realistic sculpture ever!
It is also very common to give out Li Xi (pronounced leechee) gifts (or red envelopes with money in them). These symbolize good luck for the new year, as does wearing red, especially around the New Year.
Another common thing is for people to wear something new that they just purchased to a celebration. This is because the last year was old, and it is important to bring in the new year with new things, which helps celebrate. For example some people get a new Ao Dai (pronounced ow-yai), which is a traditional national garment. It is worn both for the new year and also for other special occasions.
It is always so fun to go to traditional celebrations and experience different cultures. When attending these types of celebrations, it is important that you are being respectful and curious while acknowledging the importance the traditions. And if possible, bring someone who is part of that culture to help you better understand and learn more about it!
Shoutout to my roommate Jolie for helping me with this blog post and for teaching me so many things about Vietnamese culture and the New Year celebrations!
Thanks for reading, until next time,
Aurora Franzon 2024