So you see my list of Lunar New Year Events for 2015, but which one is the one for your family? (Updated 2/7/2015)
Here are some suggestions for where to go to celebrate Lunar New Year, which is known as both Chinese New Year and Tet (Vietnam). Chinese New Year and Tet are the same thing. So you will see events called “Chinese New Year” and others called “Tet Celebration”. They are different communities celebrating the same holiday.
If your kids are young or you have never been to a Lunar New Year/ Chinese New Year event and you want to dip your toes in…, I suggest going to one of the library events or one at Port Discovery. (UPDATE) Sadly not all library events are created equal. I have been to many of the Montgomery County Library events over the years. The best ones are the ones that say that a Chinese School or Youth Group will be performing. The ones put on at the library with just librarians just are not the same and do not include a real performance. I went to one a couple years ago where the librarian didn’t even know much about Lunar New Year. The one I saw recently was OK. It said it was for all ages, but in reality it was like a pre-school program. So if you are only going to go to one performance, skip the ones which do not include students from a Chinese Club or School. I have now highlighted the MC Public Library performances which have clubs or schools performing, so you can easily note them.
If your children are just a little bit older, then taking in the performances at one of the malls, Lakeforest or Fair Oaks is a place to see wonderful performances, but there is not a lot of audience participation and it can get pretty crowded.
I have not been to the Smithsonian celebrations, one at the Freer and Sackler galleries and one at the Museum of American Art. I suspect they are both very family friendly for all ages. If I were choosing between them, I might go to the American Art Celebration, only because I have heard good things about that one and because the Freer and Sackler Galleries have Asian art, they may depend on too much looking at art in the galleries for young children.
(1) There is a parade in Chinatown (2/22/15). We went there twice, the second time I timed it (Year of the Dragon) and the parade lasted 18 minutes. You want to get near the beginning of the parade route and further away from the Metro stop because most people stay near the Metro stop and it can get very crowded there. It is a small parade, but authentic for a very small Chinatown. I understand they have fireworks about 2-3 hours after the parade, but I have never stayed for the fireworks and I don’t know where they are.
(2) Tet Celebration at Eden Center (2/21 -22/15). Eden Center is in Falls Church, VA and is Little Saigon. This is crowded. They celebrate with Lion Dances and speeches (in Vietnamese). They celebrate inside the mall and in the parking lot. Parking is hard to come by, and you might have to park in the neighborhood. The Lion Dancing that happens outside is accompanied by fireworks (the loud kind that just smoke and make noise — not shot into the sky). The best way to celebrate at Eden center is to meet friends there and go to a restaurant in the mall and eat lunch/ snack or whatever and then come outside and see the Lion Dances outside with the noise and smoke. This is almost all Vietnamese people at this festival.
That leaves (1) The Chinese New Year Celebration at Luther Jackson School (2/14/15). I have not been to this yet, but plan to go. I have heard it is well done, the performances are in an auditorium. I have heard the food is not so good. So go for the performances and vendors and go someplace else for food. This is well organized and advertised and put on by the Chinese Community. (2) There are three Tet Festivals, one in Maryland at Northwood HS and two in Virginia and J.E.B. Stuart HS. These are all about as authentic as you can get. It will be mostly in Vietnamese. There are vendors and performances and it is all pretty crowded and loud. From the ones I have been to, there was no special place for the performances and it was hard to see. As for the food, it is very Vietnamese, and not so much necessarily the Vietnamese food that Americans like. If you want the authentic Tet experience, then go for one of these events. But it is not the place I would choose to introduce my young children to Lunar New Year. We’ve been to them lots, but my child is from Vietnam, so we expose him to it and we meet friends from our adoption group here usually. Plus it is the place to get a new ao dai or some other Vietnamese stuff.
That leaves just the Walters Art Gallery celebration, which I have also not been to, but I would probably equate with the Smithsonian celebrations.