Ringing in the Year of the Dragon: Celebrate Lunar New Year on Feb. 10

Recipes, crafts, and fun to celebrate the Lunar New Year

By Kyrie Collins, Macaroni KID Highlands Ranch-Parker-Castle Rock-Lone Tree Publisher January 31, 2024

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Roughly translated from Mandarin Chinese, it means "Congratulations and Prosperity!" 

The Chinese New Year is a celebration of the coming spring. Following a lunar calendar, the new year begins on the second new moon after the winter solstice and ends on the full moon fifteen days later.

It is the most important holiday for the Chinese, marked by traditional meals, fireworks, family gatherings, gift-giving, Red Envelopes, and a Lantern Festival at the end of the festivities.

LEARN: The Legend of Chinese New Year

Nian lived deep within the sea for the entire year, but on every Chinese New Year's Eve, he would come ashore. He devoured livestock and humans, so everyone fled to the mountains to escape harm.

One year, an elderly man appeared in the village on the Eve of the New Year and promised to chase the beast away. The villagers did not believe him; they tried to convince him to flee with them, but he refused.

When Nian emerged to wreak his usual havoc, the man set off firecrackers, lit bright lanterns, and waved red banners that frightened Nian, causing him to flee. The villagers returned, expecting the worst, but found their village intact and safe. The elderly man was not there, but they found the remains of the three items he used to scare Nian away and decided that he must have freed them from the beast.

From that day on, the villagers set off firecrackers, lit lanterns, and waved red banners to await the New Year, and the festival became known as the "Passing of Nian." "Nian" is the Chinese word that means "year," and this is how the legend was born.

LEARN: The Zodiac

It's time to say goodbye to the Year of the Rabbit and usher in the Year of the Dragon!

According to legend, the Jade Emperor said the order of the Zodiac would be decided by the order in which the animals arrived at his party. Every Chinese New Year is associated with a specific animal: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, or Pig.

The Dragon is the fifth animal of the Chinese Zodiac. Each zodiac sign is associated with one of the five elements: Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, or Earth. Specifically, this is the Year of the Wood Dragon in Chinese astrology. While the Year of the Dragon comes every 12 years, the Year of the Wood Dragon only comes every 60 years.

The Dragon is the only supernatural creature in the Chinese Zodiac. It symbolizes power, courage, and confidence. In ancient times, people believed that those born in the Year of the Dragon were best suited to be world leaders.

ATTEND: Chinese New Year Celebrations

The Highlands Ranch Cultural Affairs Association is once again partnering with Great Wall Chinese Academy to celebrate the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, ushering in the Year of the Dragon in 2024. 

Enjoy a free cultural fair throughout Southridge Recreation Center on Saturday, February 10 from 12:00-4:00 PM. Performances at 2:00 PM include traditional music, exciting Chinese Dragon and Lion dances, beautiful folk dances, and incredible Kung Fu demonstrations. Performers are a mix of talented school-age individuals and professionals.

The Cultural Fair is free to attend. Tickets to the performances are $10. Purchase tickets here.

Other semi-local events:

READ: Stories About Chinese New Year

Click on any title below to borrow the book from the Englewood Library.

WATCH: A Family Movie

  • Mulan (G): When the emperor of China calls for all families to defend the country against barbarian invaders, a courageous Mulan disguises herself as a male soldier to preclude her aging father from having to fight in the war.
  • The Karate Kid (PG): Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith star in this modern update of the movie we fell in love with back in the '80s (remember swooning over Ralph Macchio?).
  • Kung Fu Panda (PG): With characters voiced by Jack Black (Po), Dustin Hoffman (Master Shifu), Angelina Jolie (Tigress), Jackie Chan (Monkey), and Seth Rogen (Mantis), this 2008 animated movie from Dreamworks was a huge hit with kids and adults alike! You can even make it a movie marathon with Kung Fu Panda 2 and 3!
  • Life of Pi (PG): This is a beautiful coming-of-age story directed by Ang Lee and based on the novel by Yann Martel. It received eleven Academy Award nominations and won the categories of Director, Cinematography, Score, and Visual Effects.
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (PG-13): This martial arts spectacular featuring incredible action sequences and special effects earned ten Academy Award nominations and won the categories of Score, Cinematography, Art Direction, and Foreign Language Film.
  • The Last Emperor (PG-13): Winner of nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Cinematography, this epic film tells the true story of Pu Yi, the last imperial ruler of China.

How to celebrate Chinese New Year at home: