: Lan Su Chinese Garden

How to Celebrate Lunar New Year in Oregon

A brief history and a roundup of statewide events to celebrate renewal.
February 11, 2021 (Updated January 3, 2023)

Lunar New Year, traditionally known as the Spring Festival in many East Asian and South Asian cultures, marks a period of renewal. The holiday brings together friends and family to feast, reflect and usher in prosperity, happiness and good health.

Based on the traditional lunisolar calendar, Lunar New Year does not adhere to a fixed date like the January 1 of the Gregorian calendar. Typically occurring anywhere between January 19 and February 23, Lunar New Year in 2024 falls on February 10. In accordance with the Chinese zodiac, each year is associated with one of the five Chinese elements and one of 12 astrological animals. This is the Year of the Dragon.

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Red lanterns hang from the entrance of Lan Su Chinese Garden.
Reserve your time to explore the Chinese New Year celebrations at Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland.

Cultural Celebrations

Cultures that celebrate Lunar New Year include Chinese, Korean, Mongolian, Tibetan and Vietnamese — many of which have long and rich histories in Oregon, including small towns like Baker City and John Day. Enticed by gold-mining opportunities, Cantonese-Chinese immigrants settled in the Oregon Territory before it was granted statehood. As the state flourished, Chinese and Japanese communities grew and contributed to the agricultural and fishery industries.

Today many of the cultural traditions remain the same. The three-day Korean Seollal celebration encompasses the day before, the day of and the day after. Families observe rituals of filial piety and eat tteokguk, a soup with sliced rice cakes. During the Vietnamese Tết Nguyên Đán, families display New Year trees, which are decorated with good-luck charms and origami, and enjoy bánh tét — sticky rice filled with mung beans and/or meat and wrapped in banana leaves.

Chinese New Year is perhaps the most well-known of the Lunar New Year celebrations. The festive period spans 15 days, beginning on the first lunar new moon of the year and ending on the full moon. For good luck, Chinese people wear red and make an offering to the Kitchen God, a highly revered deity who reports to heaven on families’ deeds.

Here’s what’s happening this year for Lunar New Year festivities near Portland.

Red ribbon and Chinese coins hanging decoration.
Courtesy of Lan Su Chinese Garden

Lan Su Chinese Garden

Chinese New Year Celebration

Lan Su Chinese Garden in downtown Portland hosts an annual series of joyous and colorful events during the garden’s two-week Lunar New Year celebration. Check their website for updated information about this year’s celebrations. Events include cultural performances, festival decorations, family craft activities, Chinese calligraphy and brush painting workshops and more. Visitors will receive a hong bao, or traditional lucky red envelope to start the new year right. If you can’t make the opening day, learn how to make your own to pass out to family and friends during the festivities.

Traditional Lion Dance Performance

The opening ceremony includes a Chinese lion dance performance at Lan Su’s Front Plaza by the by Portland Lee’s Association Dragon & Lion Dance Team. This performance kicks off the start of celebrations and is said to bring good fortune. This event is free and open to the public.

New Year Lantern Viewing

To close the celebrations after two weekends, the garden’s Lunar New Year festivities end with traditional Lantern Viewing Evenings with a display of countless illuminated red lanterns and large lantern sculptures from China.

 

A performer appears to hover in mid-air
Courtesy of Portland’5 Centers for the Arts

More Lunar New Year Celebrations

Find more celebrations for Lunar New Year celebrations across the Rose City and beyond. Be sure to check event calendars for the most updated information and dates.

Portland Chinatown Parade

Portland Chinatown Museum, in collaboration with the Oregon Historical Society and numerous community partners, organizes their Lunar New Year Dragon Dance Parade and Celebration in downtown Portland. The festivities include lion dancers, drummers and a parade led by a 150-foot dragon. The processions begins at the Portland Chinatown Museum, through the iconic China Gate and up to the Oregon Historical Society. Check the website for dates and details.

Chinese New Year Cultural Fair

Hosted by the Portland Chinese Times the Chinese New Year Cultural Fair is held annually at the Oregon Convention Center. The Chinese New Year Cultural Fair  showcases both traditional and contemporary Chinese cultural activities including Lion Dances, folk dances, instrumental music, and martial arts demonstrations throughout the day. Nibble on a variety of cultural foods for all to enjoy from Chinese vendors and shop from a mini marketplace to buy authentic gifts and home decor.

Vietnamese Lunar New Year at Washington Square Mall

Washington Square Mall in Tigard invites shoppers to visit their Wishing Tree in Summit Court. The tradition involves participants making a wish on a red ribbon and tossing it onto the tree. It is believed that wishes will come true in the coming year if they stick. Afterward, enjoy some dumplings, traditionally eaten during the New Year, at Taiwanese chain restaurant Din Tai Fung.Pro tip: make reservations ahead of time for the popular dumpling spot.

Chinese Friendship Association of Portland

The Chinese Friendship Association of Portland, a local nonprofit, will host a Lunar New Year Celebration at Portland’s Keller Auditorium. The spectacular lineup of performances includes a magic show by award-winning magicians, professional singing stars, international Wushu champions performing their best gymnastic routines and a variety of culture performances by well-known groups and individuals. There will also be art and calligraphy exhibits by well-known visual artists and craft workshops by popular culture organizations.

About The
Author

Janey Wong
Janey Wong is a freelance writer and food Instagrammer @foodbbpdx. Born and raised in Portland, she has also lived in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of her family’s home country Malaysia. She loves to explore all of Oregon’s unique landscapes and cultural pockets, and has a goal of visiting all 50 states. Compiling lists of places to eat is often her first priority whilst trip planning. Her work has appeared in The Oregonian, Travel Portland, Womanly Magazine and others.

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