The Lunar New Year marks the first day of the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar, which typically falls in late January or early February. Several East Asian countries mark Lunar New Year with an array of cultural events and activities, but you don’t need to fly halfway around the world to join the celebration.
Read on to learn more about annual Lunar New Year celebrations in Portland, all of which are open to public.
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is traditionally a 15-day celebration that includes wearing the lucky color red, paying respects to ancestors and cleaning the house to drive away bad luck. Festive menus feature foods like dumplings, cakes and long noodles for long life. Other traditions include lucky papers with good wishes, money-stuffed red envelopes and firecrackers to frighten off the mythical Nian.
Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden offers a two-week celebration of Chinese New Year. The fun includes lion dances, family crafts, Chinese folk art, calligraphy, martial arts performances and a Chinese wishing tree. On the first day of the festival, every visitor receives a lucky hong bao (red envelope) as part of the traditional event.
Lan Su also collaborates with the Portland Chinatown History Foundation on a community parade that weaves through the Chinatown neighborhood. The celebrations conclude with several evenings of lantern viewings. These often sold-out events feature glowing red lanterns and a 20-foot (6 m) illuminated dragon lantern sculpture.
Presented by the Portland Chinese Times, the Chinese New Year Cultural Fair draws thousands of attendees. Kick off this annual event at the Oregon Convention Center by snacking on free samples from local Chinese restaurants. Next, enjoy the live music, martial arts, Chinese folk dances, dragon and lion dances and other family-friendly cultural performances. Visitors of all ages can enjoy hands-on activities like face painting, calligraphy and arts and crafts presented by local Chinese language schools.
A Japanese New Year tradition, Mochitsuki refers to the pounding of sticky rice to make mochi rice cakes. Mochitsuki has been an annual Japanese-American New Year cultural celebration in the local community since 1996. The family-friendly festival has grown in popularity each year since, bringing together food, artwork, cultural booths, demonstrations, and local music and dance performances, along with hands-on cultural experiences. Enjoy mochi pounding demonstrations (and enticing samples) or learn about Japanese calligraphy, origami or ikebana (flower arranging). Round out the day with children’s bento-cooking classes, lessons on Japanese tea ceremonies and New Year’s card-making.
Connect with Portland's rich Japanese-American heritage at sites around the city.
Thousands gather every August in Southeast Portland to celebrate the Jade District’s diverse immigrant community at the Jade International Night Market.
Today, Portland’s original downtown is a bustling entertainment district, home to Portland's famous Saturday Market, Chinatown Museum and Lan Su Chinese Garden.