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 2023 falls on January 22. 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 Rabbit.
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 (Jan. 22, 2023) and ending on the full moon (Feb. 5, 2023). 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.
Multnomah County Library
Jan. 13 – Jan. 15, 2023
Multnomah County Library is hosting in-person events at library locations in Portland. Celebrate the 2023 Year of the Cat and Rabbit (in Vietnamese and Chinese culture, respectively) with cultural workshops and traditions. Events this year include gathering at Gregory Heights Library for a Vietnamese craft project workshop, while the Woodstock Library offers a spring couplet, or poetry, workshop in Chinese. Contact the library staff at [email protected] or visit the library website for more information.
Chinese New Year Cultural Fair
Jan. 21, 2023
Hosted by the Portland Chinese Times the 2023 Chinese New Year Cultural Fair is back to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit 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.
Lan Su Chinese Garden
Jan. 22 – Feb. 5, 2023
Lan Su Chinese Garden is hosting a series of joyous and colorful events during the garden’s two-week Lunar New Year celebration. Events will include cultural performances, festival decorations, family craft activities, Chinese calligraphy and brush painting workshops and more. The opening ceremony is planned for Jan. 21, with a Chinese lion dance performance at Lan Su’s Front Plaza. Visitors will receive a hong bao, or traditional lucky red envelope to start the new year right. On the weekends of Jan. 26-29 and Feb. 2-5, the garden’s Lunar New Year celebration ends with traditional Lantern Viewing Evenings with a display of countless illuminated red lanterns and large lantern sculptures from China.
Pro tip: You can download the Discover Lan Su mobile app for free access to garden audio tours
Portland Chinatown Museum
Jan. 28, 2023
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.
Vietnamese Lunar New Year at Washington Square Mall
Jan. 28, 2023
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
Feb. 4, 2023
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. Check the website for tickets and other details.