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Where to celebrate Lunar New Year in SoCal

File photo. 2016 is the year of the monkey.
File photo. 2016 is the year of the monkey.
Epic Fireworks/Flickr/Creative Commons

Gong xi fa cai! 

Monday is Lunar New Year. People around the world will say goodbye to the year of the sheep (or goat or ram) and welcome the year of the monkey. And Southern Californians have a unique way of reigning it in.  

"If you're sort of more traditional, you might visit some Buddhist temples and get some luck," said Susie Ling, associate professor of Asian American studies at Pasadena City College and a longtime member of the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California.

"In America, as with everything, it's kind of become its own being," Ling said. "For decades we've had parades in Chinatown... In Asian traditions, we don't have parades."

"We also have a 10K. I'm sure that is not part of Chinese tradition," she added.

Ling said that people who observe the Lunar New Year here are really diverse. They include a mashup of Californians: natives who only speak English, brand new immigrants, multiethnic migrants and Europeans or South Americans who are of Asian descent.

"It is more of a celebration of Los Angeles than it is a celebration of tradition," she said. 

How about the food?

Tables will bear plates of dumplings and rice desserts, but tamales may show up too. And since it's Super Bowl weekend, those dishes may have to share space with snacks familiar to most Americans.

"Many, many Asian Americans will be sharing nachos and hot wings and watching a little football," Ling said. 

Celebrating? Here are just a few Lunar New Year events happening this weekend. 


1. Street festival in the San Gabriel Valley

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A lion dance, a rap performance and a short film showcase are just a few parts of this street festival’s daylong lineup of traditional and modern entertainment. Grab an Angel City lager at the craft beer garden to wash down food truck offerings, which include potstickers, Japanese pancakes and “Asian-inspired” poutine. There will also be a year of the monkey-themed chalk art contest. 

When: 11 a.m to 11 p.m. Saturday

Where: Mission District, 320 S. Mission Dr., San Gabriel | MAP

Price: Free admission


2. Gastropub party in downtown

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Peking Tavern, a Chinese gastropub situated in a basement in downtown L.A., will celebrate Lunar New Year with party favors, a DJ set and a photographer to document the night. Guests are encouraged to wear Qipao, a Mao jacket or other traditional Chinese attire. 

When: 9:30 p.m. to 1:15 a.m. Saturday

Where: Peking Tavern, 806 S. Spring St., Los Angeles | MAP

Price: Free admission | RSVP


3. Midnight ceremony in Chinatown

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For a traditional celebration, head to Chinatown’s Chuan Thien Hau Temple to ring in the year of the monkey at midnight. Attendees will present gifts to the deities, light up firecrackers “to awaken the spirits” and burn incense to welcome good fortune. Lion dancers and Buddhist and Taoist monks will participate. Can’t make it to the midnight ceremony? Enjoy a feast at one of these Chinatown restaurants that are serving New Year specials on Monday: Empress Pavilion, Fortune Gourmet Kitchen, Golden City, Hop Woo BBQ & Seafood Restaurant, JR Bistro and Ocean Seafood Restaurant. 

When: 10 p.m. to midnight Sunday

Where: Chuan Thien Hau Temple, 750-756 N. Yale St., Los Angeles | MAP

Price: Free


4. Tết Festival in Orange County

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This three-day festival kicks off Friday with the Vietnamese tradition of the raising of Cây Nêu (a bamboo with a red scroll bearing a good luck message and firecrackers) and a prayer to the village deity. There will also be bánh mì and phở eating contests. 

When: 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday

Where: OC Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Dr., Costa Mesa | MAP

Price: $6 


5. Taste of Night Market in Santa Monica

626 Night Market will venture to the Westside with a lineup of celebrated chefs and vendors in tow. The guys at China Tasty will bring their noodles from Alhambra and show off their dough hand-pulling skills. Star Kitchen will offer their famous crispy tofu balls. Like tacos? Take your pick from peking duck, fusion pho and crunchy wasabi Sriracha salmon belly tacos. All this plus Lunar New Year-themed activities and performances at the cavernous Barker Hangar in Santa Monica.

When: Friday and Saturday

Where: Barker Hangar, 3021 Airport Avenue, Suite 203, Santa Monica | MAP

Price: $65+ (admission includes food and drinks)