Lunar New Year celebration in Seattle's Chinatown-International District. Photo credit: Cham Bunphoath
Happy New Year! Yes, happy 2020 but also happy Lunar New Year! This holiday falls on the day of the first new moon (Jan. 25 this year) and is celebrated in places with lots of Chinese people. That’s mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam… and Seattle.
Local events take place Jan. 25–Feb. 8, 2020; we've got a great list of events for families below, in order of date. Watch for extra details about some of our favorites to help you choose.
For more tips on exploring Seattle's International District, check out our Secrets to the International District From a Chinese Mom.
The first Chinese people arrived in Seattle just about the same time as the city’s founding in the mid-1800s. In the 2010 census count, Asians made up 14 percent of Seattle’s population, including some 30,835 Chinese Americans. Lunar New Year is the biggest event of the year in many Asian countries, bigger than Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter combined. Based on sheer numbers, Seattle offers an impressive pick of Lunar New Year events.
The zodiac animals cycle through every dozen years, and 2020 is the Year of the Rat. They say that people born in the Year of the Rat are inquisitive, clever, self-controlled, thrifty, active and industrious. (You can take that list of personality traits with a grain of salt; it’s about as reliable as your astrological sign.) Rats you might know include George Washington, William Shakespeare, Eminem, Mark Zuckerberg and LeBron James.
Whether you’re Chinese or if you just like food and people, celebrate the Year of the Rat at one of these Seattle-area events. Find the festival that's right for your family and have a happy new year!
When: Jan 28, 6 p.m.
Travel virtually to the Asian Art Museum in San Fran to enjoy Lunar New Year stories and view related art with a docent.
When: Feb. 4, 11 a.m.
Join the Wing Luke Museum to hear a festive Lunar New Year themed story called 'Sam and the Lucky Money'.
When: Feb. 1–12; Feb. 12, 5 p.m.
Where: Bellevue square and Online
The Belleuve Collection is known for their impressive annual Lunar New Year celebration. Naturally, this year's main event will be online, however they still have a lot in planned. Festive displays and decorations are up around Bellevue Square to admire as well as an AR experience to check out at your convenience, Feb.1–12. Join the main event, a virtual dragon and lion parade, on Feb. 12.
When: Feb. 8–19
This annual Lunar New Year celebration organized by the Asia Pacific Cultural Center includes 6 days of virtual performances, each day highlighting a different asian country and it's culture. The finale will highlight the Marshall Islands, this years featured country.
When: Saturday, Feb. 13, 1 p.m.–5 p.m.
Join the Wing Luke Museum online to celebrate the Year of the Ox! Enjoy the traditional lion dance performance, participate in the coloring contest and more!
When: Feb. 12–16
Rejoice in the Year of the Ox and celebrate our diverse region with a 5-day virtual Lunar New Year event. At your convenience, hop online to enjoy workshops, performances and more. Videos and content will be released daily, Feb. 12–16, with chances to win prizes and giveaways.
7. Tacoma's mysterious Monkeyshines Hunt
When: Around Lunar New Year (Feb. 12 in 2021)
Where: Around Tacoma
Will Monkeyshines happen this year? Tacoma knows how to have fun with guerilla art. If you don't live in Tacoma or haven't heard about Monkeyshines, read up and you might just be tempted to wake up early and get in on the hunt.
Lunar New Year books for kids
Before taking your kids to an event, try reading some books together to learn about Lunar New Year traditions. Here are some favorites:
1. "Bringing in the New Year" by Grace Lin: Bright colors and simple text highlight the most important traditions around New Year.
2. "This Next New Year" by Janet Wong: A young boy celebrates the Lunar New Year with all his neighbors and friends. The book is cross-culturally inclusive and its message is universal: Everyone has dreams and hopes for a fresh start.
3. "A New Year’s Reunion" by Li-Qiong Yu: The book is set in China, where some parents have to leave their children to work in cities. This story has more words than the other two, and a twinge of sadness that you might have to explain to your child.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2016 and updated for 2020.