February 8, 2017

10 Lunar New Year Traditions to Celebrate at OMCA

Explore a range of Asian cultures at the annual community festival

By Snowy Tung, Public Programs Developer

With contributions from Claudia Leung

The tradition of Lunar New Year is celebrated around the world. At the Oakland Museum of California, our annual celebration highlights the many Asian cultures represented around the Bay Area. This year’s event on Sunday, February 12 marks the Year of the Rooster, a year that symbolizes boldness, family ties, and intensity. Whether you come every year or you are just beginning to learn about these traditions, here are ten ways to engage with this colorful festival of good fortune.
1. Plan ahead.

The Lunar New Year invites us to take stock of the past year, get rid of bad old habits, and begin anew. Start with some advance planning for Sunday’s festival. Avoid the long line—buy tickets online, and save $2 off each ticket. Even better, get an OMCA Membership so you can skip the line and come back to the Museum for free. Also, check out the schedule in advance, so you’ll make sure to see it all!

2. Take BART.

Part of the Lunar New Year tradition is cleaning your home to make way for good fortune. In the same spirit, choose a cleaner way to commute, and take BART to the celebration. OMCA is only a block away from Lake Merritt Station, making the trip easy. Parking in the OMCA garage opens at 8 am with a flat-rate fee of $7, but it’s sure to fill up, so public transportation is your best bet. Additional parking is available for a $5 flat fee at ALCO Parking Garage, 165 13th Street at Jackson Street, and will be open from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm.

3. Come ready to eat!

An important part of the Lunar New Year in many Asian cultures is sharing food with family. At OMCA, learn how to make your own spring rolls, a Vietnamese tradition. You can also enjoy food trucks on 10th street—Bombzies BBQ, featuring pan-Asian flavors, WoKitchen, serving authentic Chinese-style cuisine, and 3 Brothers Kitchen, which has Southeast Asian-inspired food. Blue Oak café will have Asian treats from local restaurants reflecting Oakland’s diversity.

4. Get decorated.

Many people go to markets for red and gold decorations, colorful clothing, and food at Lunar New Year. At OMCA, decorate yourself and the little ones with Lunar New Year face paint by volunteers from BuildOn. Special vendors will have great Lunar New Year-themed merchandise for sale including Fabula Tea, a Year of the Rooster book signing with author Oliver Chin, and more in the OMCA Store.

5. Get in the spirit with the lion and dragon dances.

In Chinese tradition, the lion symbolizes good fortune and wisdom, while the dragon is life-giving, powerful, and friendly. Lion and dragon dances are common at festivals, weddings, and of course, Lunar New Year. These ferocious creatures are said to scare off bad spirits and bring in happiness. A roaring lion dance starts off the celebration at OMCA, and the event always closes with a majestic dragon dance. Students from the Buddhist Developing Virtue Secondary School travel all the way from Ukiah to perform these favorites every year.

6. Know your astrology.

2017 marks the Year of the Rooster, one of twelve animals in the Lunar zodiac. People born in the Year of the Rooster are said to be interesting, brave, and talented. Learn more about the symbolism of the Rooster during story time with author Oliver Chin. Make your own Rooster button, and have your fortune told by the School of Yimutology. You might even meet a rooster in-person at the Little Explorers Petting Zoo—an annual favorite.

7. Make some noise.

Loud sounds, like firecrackers, are used on Lunar New Year to scare away bad spirits. At OMCA’s celebration, chase the evil away with the sounds of different drumming traditions from Japanese Taiko with Jiten Daiko to Malaysian 24 Festival Drums, to traditional Korean drumming, known as Utdari Samulnori.

8. Savor cultural dance.

Enjoy a range of cultural dances from Gadung Kasturi Balinese Dance and Music to Patty Chu’s Chinese Folk Dance Troupe, to energetic K-pop Dance performed by the UC Berkeley Korean Performance Group. Let the sounds and dazzling costumes of these talented groups bring you happiness and excitement for a New Year.

9. Be wowed.

Your jaw will drop with awesome demonstrations of contortion acrobatics by Teri Wing, magic tricks of The Magic of Jade, comedy and magic by Goofball, Vietnamese martial arts by Vovinam America, and Chinese Yo-Yo tricks from Foothill High School students. Just don’t try any of these at home!

10. Make something to take home.

Try your hand at a craft like Chinese calligraphy, Japanese doll-making making Chinese lanterns from lucky red envelopes, or Tibetan prayer flag-making e. Construct your own Korean kite and write your New Year’s wish on it, and then fly it in the garden, or make a Korean lucky money bag to hold all your good fortune. 

The Lunar New Year Celebration and Other Asian Traditions takes place on Sunday, February 12, 2017, from 12 pm to 4:30 pm at the Oakland Museum of California. Tickets are available online.