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KPBS Midday Edition

Lunar New Year 2022 celebrations resume in person

Lunar New Year 2022 kicks off on Tuesday, Feb. 1 as the Year of the Tiger. The Lunar New year falls on the first new moon after the winter's solstice or the second moon on a leap year, and each year is represented by a different animal.

It is celebrated by many cultures in East and Southeast Asia and comes with many traditions, each having a special meaning behind them.

David Seid, executive officer of the House of China in Balboa Park, joined KPBS Midday Edition to talk about Chinese New Year traditions.

"Families gather, as will my family tonight for a celebratory dinner," he said. "It just signifies a happy time, a time of plentiful food, good, tasty food. Chinese have so many different types of food, and we're longing to just reconnect and to put aside maybe problems of the past and have hope for the future."

He said some of the traditions are cleaning the house prior to the new year, wearing new clothes and gifting money to children.

"You don't want to sweep out any good luck on New Year's Day itself," Seid said. "The families should all have new clothes. If you're a child, you'll be presented with different colored red envelopes with slogans or drawings, and inside the envelopes are money."

Seid said the color red symbolizes good fortune and happiness and can be seen a lot throughout the new year celebrations. He said the tiger year is a very significant year because the animal symbolizes courage and confidence.

"There's a legend saying that Lord Buddha had called animals to his palace, and these are the 12 animals that did appear," Seid said. "It includes the mouse, which was the first animal, and includes a dog, a lamb, a dragon, a snake, a pig and a chicken. So those are some of the other animals that are celebrated during the 12 year period of time."

Seid said local Lunar New Year events are resuming in person this year after being virtual last year.

"Our own organization, House of China, which is one of the founders of the international cottages in Balboa Park has a scheduled Feb. 19 and 20 event from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.," Seid said. "We have several lion dance groups, cultural dance groups, music, and we also will have people doing calligraphy, so there are souvenirs for them, and a variety of food booths as well."

Little Saigon Foundation hosted its own Lunar New Year celebration this past weekend at Officer Jeremy Henwood Park in City Heights. The San Diego Tet Festival, hosted by the Vietnamese American Youth Alliance and Vietnamese Federation, celebrating Vietnamese New Year, is this weekend in Mira Mesa.

The San Diego Chinese New Year Fair in downtown San Diego, presented by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, was canceled this year because of the omicron surge.

Lunar New Year 2022: "Year of the Tiger"

In City Heights on Monday, the start of the Lunar New Year celebration was marked by the unveiling of a new mural honoring the Vietnamese community at Minh Ky restaurant. The mural was designed by artist Thao Huynh French.

“This is the most meaningful mural I’ve ever painted in my life," she said at the unveiling. "I put eight to 11 hour days in, every single day, for eight days straight. So my hands feel like they're going to fall off, my eyes are very tired, but my heart is so full.”

The theme of the mural is "resilience," according to Viet Vote president Jean-Huy Tran.

"Our community has survived through the pandemic. We escaped the communists to come here and we still survived. We are survivors,” he said.

Other cultural celebrations at the event included a lion dance performance, firecrackers, music and gifts.

French said the mural carries extra meaning as she considers the neighborhood her community.

“Little Saigon is my home, I lived here for 10 years and I’ve been eating at this restaurant for as long as I can remember," she said. "It means a lot for me to show my art here and to make the community proud. And to boost morale after a couple of very hard years, to share the story of the Asian-American experience.”

Monday's ceremony also included a county proclamation issued by Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher, naming Jan. 31, 2022, as "Viet Vote Day."