I admit that I faced a little push back when I told my kids that we were going to going to a Chinese New Year celebration.
“Didn’t we already celebrate New Year’s last month?” one of them asked.
“Yeah mom, we still have the hats and horns up in the closet,” my other daughter chimed in.
But despite their reluctance in my claims that we still had another New Year’s to celebrate, they were up for the adventure of taking a virtual “road trip to Beijing” (even if it was just a drive across town to DFW China Town to the Dallas suburb of Richardson, Texas).
DFW China Town is right off of Greenville Avenue. It’s a sprawling shopping center flanked by Confucius and historical statues from different dynasties, as well as dragon posts and Chinese lanterns at each entrance.
It’s where you’ll find all things authentically Asian such as a variety of restaurants, businesses, clothing boutiques and grocery stores.
At the heart of it all is the Dallas Chinese Community Center, which has been a beacon to Asian immigrants in the Dallas area for nearly 30 years.
While there I met with Grace Tang, a DCCC board member, who explained that the organization’s mission is to promote Chinese culture and to foster diversity through educational, cultural and recreational programs and activities that enrich the lives of immigrants, as well as everyone in our community.
Although my intention was to drive by DFW China Town to take a few photos and encourage my girls to learn a little more about this special holiday, it turns out that our timing was perfect.
When we arrived the DCCC’s outdoor Chinese New Year festivities were just getting underway. It was a musical and visual feast.
There were colorful lion and dragon dances, martial arts presentations, origami crafts, red envelope giveaways and even a Qing Dynasty costume show.
We hit the cultural mother lode. Jackpot!
Just as I hoped, our weekend jaunt in the minivan became another opportunity to explore something new right in our own backyard. It was a chance to venture out of our ZIP code to generate awareness and appreciation for different cultures and customs.
Best of all, we didn’t have to flip on the Travel Channel or fly half way around the world to do it.
Sometimes you can teach your kids so much about people around the globe by just taking a short drive across town.
I guess it is a small world after all.
Here are five interesting things we learned about Chinese New Year:
- The holiday marks the beginning of spring
Although in winter, Chinese call their New Year holidays ‘Spring Festival,’ because it is the first in their traditional solar calendar. While wintry weather prevails, the New Year marks the end of the coldest part of winter and the beginning of spring.
- The date for Chinese New Year changes each year
It usually falls between late January to mid-February, determined by the Chinese lunar calendar. We learned that 2017 is the Year of the Rooster.
- Dragons are part of the Chinese New Year folklore
Westerners easily identify the Chinese dragon with Chinese New Year, especially in parades. But the Chinese dragon is actually a part of the folklore assigned to the beginning of the New Year.
The Chinese dragon is named “Nian” and in a Santa Claus-like custom it would visit every New Year. According to the legend, villagers would put food on the front door to feed the dragon to appease it so it wouldn’t attack them. Later on, a clever villager realized Niam was afraid of red and loud noises. The put up red every New Year and red firecrackers soon followed to scare the dragon even more away.
- The red envelopes contain money
These red envelopes with cash are given out from older people to youngsters or from bosses to employees. It’s like a special New Year’s bonus.
- It’s a public holiday in many countries
It’s China’s winter vacation week, like between Christmas and New Year’s Day in other countries. The holiday is traditionally 15 days long and is recognized by about one-third of the world’s population in more than 12 countries.
Plan a visit to the Dallas Chinese Cultural Center to learn more about upcoming cultural events and programs this spring.