Seven ways to celebrate Chinese New Year with your family in Chicago

Chinese New Year is celebrated the first fifteen days of the Chinese calendar. The holiday, which begins on January 31, 2014, is the longest one in the Chinese calendar. This year is the Year of the Horse, one of the 12 animals on the Chinese zodiac calendar.

To celebrate the New Year, it is customary for families to gather together and eat foods known for bringing luck. People also give and receive small red envelopes filled with money as yet another token of good fortune – and one more way to help guarantee a prosperous New Year. Of course, it wouldn’t be a New Year’s celebration without a lot of pomp and circumstance. Parades with booming marching bands, lively dragon dance teams, and brightly colored floats often herald in the New Year in a big, loud and celebratory way.

In Chicago, there are many ways to celebrate the Chinese New Year throughout its entire 15-day duration. Here are seven ways you and your family can to ring in the Year of the Horse:

1. Chinese New Year Kickoff Celebration
Richard E. Daley Center
50 W. Washington St., Chicago (Loop)
Friday, January 31, 12 – 1 pm
Free admission

You can celebrate the official start of the Chinese New Year with a free lunchtime performance on Daley Plaza, presented by the The Chinese Fine Arts Society. At noon, Chinese folk artists from across Chicago will take to the stage to help ring in the New Year with dance, music martial arts, and more.

2. Argyle Street Chinese New Year Parade
Parade starts at Argyle St. and Broadway Ave. (Uptown)
Saturday, February 1 at 1 pm
Free admission

The first of two Chicago Chinese New Year parades kicks off along Argyle Street on the city’s north side. The parade will feature traditional dragon and lion dances, elaborate floats, martial arts teams, and a marching band. The route takes a square path with the parade stepping off on Argyle St. at Broadway Ave. and then going east to Sheridan Rd, south to Lawrence Ave., west to Broadway Ave., and then north on Argyle St. While you’re near Argyle St., be sure to grab lunch at one of the many restaurants that line the intersection of Broadway Ave. and Argyle St.

3. Year of the Horse Chinese New Year Celebration
Chinese-American Museum of Chicago 
238 W. 23rd St. (Chinatown)
Saturday, February 1 from 2 – 4 pm
$12 for non-members, $10 for members, $5 for children (12 and under)

The Chinese-American Museum of Chicago invites families to come celebrate the Chinese New Year in true Chicago style. The celebration will explain and showcase many of the traditions of the New Year. Families can enjoy traditional Chinese tea, sweet dumplings, sweet and savory sesame balls, and New Year cakes. You can make a reservation by calling 312.949.1000.

4. Chinese New Year with Redmoon Theater
Navy Pier’s Grand Ballroom, 600 E. Grand Ave.
Sunday, February 1, 6 pm
Free admission

Families can come to Navy Pier to see a new Chinese New Year “spectacle” from Redmoon Theater. The performance will include masked performers, interactive creation stations and spectacle devices. The night sky will be lit up with a fireworks display featuring mostly red fireworks in honor of the Chinese New Year.

5. Chinese Lunar New Year Parade
Chinatown; Parade starts at Wentworth Ave. and 24th St., Chicago
Sunday, February 2, 1 – 2:30 p.m.
Free admission

The popular Chinese Lunar New Year Parade will take to the streets of Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood on Sunday, February 2, 2014. It will step off at Wentworth Ave. from 24th St. and continue south on Wentworth Ave. towards Cermak Rd. From there, it will then go west on Cermak Rd. towards Princeton Ave. The colorful, vibrant parade will feature dancing dragons, marching bands, decorative floats, and more. If you get there early, you can usually catch a glimpse of the dancing dragon teams practicing together. If the temperatures dip down, you can easily stay warm by popping into the stores, tea shops, and bakeries that line Wentworth Ave., or grabbing lunch at a Chinatown restaurant before or after the parade.

6. 2014 Year of the Horse New Year Celebration
Lycée Francais de Chicago’s gym
613 W. Bittersweet Place (Buena Park)
Sunday, February 9, 12:30 – 2:30 pm
$25 adults ($30 at the door), $5 children

ChinaFriends, the Chicago-based Mandarin Language Center, brings its 2014 Year of the Horse New Year Celebration to the Lycée Francais de Chicago. The event will include games, crafts, lion dance, student performances and a Chinese food buffet. RSVP with payment by February 3, 2014.

7. Chinese New Year Lantern Celebration
Navy Pier’s Crystal Gardens
600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago
Sunday, February 16, noon – 3 pm
Free admission

Neighborhoods of the World returns to Navy Pier once again this winter. The event, which takes place over the course of seven Sundays throughout the winter, celebrates the many ethnic communities of Chicago. It begins this year with a Chinese New Year Lantern Celebration, presented by The Chinese Fine Arts Society, on Sunday, February 16. The Chinese New Year Lantern Celebration will feature live music, dance performances, Chinese cuisine, calligraphy, kids crafts and folk art provided by local groups and businesses.

Interested in a few more options? Here are two other ways to ring in Chinese New Year with your family in Chicago:

Chinese New Year Lantern Festival Fun Fair
First Free Church
5255 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago
Sat., Feb. 8 from 1 – 4 pm
$15 per family

Family fun abounds at Little Linguists Academy’s Chinese New Year Lantern Festival Fun Fair. At the event, you can enjoy traditional Chinese New Year arts and crafts, storytelling, performances, lion dances and a lantern parade. Proceeds from the event benefit Room to Read, which works with communities and local governments across Asia and Africa to develop literacy skills among primary school children.

Chinese New Year Dumpling Making Party with Yum Dum Truck
The Garage
116 N. Aberdeen, Chicago
Sat., Feb. 1 from 2 – 4:30 pm
$40 for adults and $20 for kids

To celebrate the Chinese New Year, Yum Dum Truck, a new Asian food truck launching this spring, is holding a special class to teach participants how to make dumplings, a food often eaten to bring good luck and health in the coming year. Jeff Wang of Yum Dum Truck will provide a hands-on demonstration of the different ways to fold dumplings and then you can give it a try for yourself. At the end of class, participants enjoy a family-style meal featuring the fresh, handmade dumplings made by the students. Please note: Yum Dum requests a three-day advance notice for any children who would like to participate in the class. Young participants will enjoy a special kids menu put together by Wang.

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