Lunar New Year traditions in the Year of the Ox

There are many traditions surrounding the Chinese New Year. Friday will mark the beginning of the Year of the Ox and the celebration itself lasts for several days.

In celebration, decorations will go up often in the color of red and gold signifying prosperity and luck. Families get together for a reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve and firecrackers and fireworks are set off to mark the new year.

Every sign in the Zodiac comes with its own characteristics that and Orlando Kuan who owns the Eastern Bakery, the oldest bakery in Chinatown says: "The ox works very hard and is dedicated and loyal. I hope we have a better year."

Kuan says cake celebrating the new year is made with rice brown sugar white sugar and coconut and says there are always the favorites.

"Jian Dui, you use this for every holiday every wedding birthday and especially for the new year," he says.

Chef Brandon Jew owns the Michelin-starred Mister Jui’s in Chinatown serves Chinese American cuisine.  But every year there are certain dishes that bring the sentiment back for him.

"My grandma used to make the tang yuan and put the black sesame paste in it," says Jew, "it always reminds me of her and Chinese New Year," he said.

For Kevin Chan, the owner of the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, he spends a lot of the New Year working but says "my tradition is to have a late-night meal nothing big nothing special just calm."  He knows the fortune cookie is an American celebration of Chinese culture and often that’s when people come to his store to stock up.

It is a time for many businesses in the Chinese community to share the traditions with their community. It is common to see the passing of red envelopes filled with sweets or money

Tane Chan is the owner of the Wok Shop on Grant Street.  She says while she spends a lot of time talking about woks and how to care for them and use them, she is also happy to answer Chinese New Year questions too.

"People see the Chinese giving red envelopes and we sell them here", she says, "and they are always asking what are they for and of course that's good luck money for the children and unmarried and it's a tradition it’s just gift giving and a time to give and wishing them health and prosperity."

It is a celebration filled with bright colors, lion dances bring prosperity and firecrackers scare away the evil spirits, oranges and tangerines represent happiness and abundance.

It is about new beginnings and the hope that the year ox brings better days for everyone.

Jew says: "I'm not as superstitious as some of my family and friends but when I think of Year of the Rat in 2020 and trying to be scrappy and stay alive and getting really creative and keep moving and then I think the year of the ox being a little stubborner and persistent and trying to persevere I really think that some of those omens of these animals are really playing out."