Where to celebrate Lunar New Year in Colorado — and its holiday traditions explained

· Feb. 2, 2024, 4:00 am
Members of the Colorado Asian Cultural Heritage Center do a dragon dance during Lunar New Year festivities at the Far East Center on Federal Boulevard. Feb. 5, 2022.Members of the Colorado Asian Cultural Heritage Center do a dragon dance during Lunar New Year festivities at the Far East Center on Federal Boulevard. Feb. 5, 2022.Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Members of the Colorado Asian Cultural Heritage Center do a dragon dance during Lunar New Year festivities at the Far East Center on Federal Boulevard. Feb. 5, 2022.

The Lunar New Year is a 15-day celebration practiced by many Asian cultures. This year, the Lunar New Year falls on Saturday, Feb. 10.

The holiday, often recognized as a spring festival, signifies a time of renewal. It is a time for families to join together, worship ancestors, cast away evil spirits, and pray for a good harvest.

According to the zodiac and its five elements, the upcoming year is a year of the wood dragon. The dragon signifies power and adaptability while wood is associated with growth, creativity, and expansion.

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2024 is also significant because it marks the first year that Colorado will observe the Lunar New Year as a state holiday

According to Nga Vương-Sandoval, founder and chair for Lunar New Year Allies Advisory Group (LUNA), the holiday now has “a level of permanence that will continually be something that is recognized and observed for many generations to come,” and it “signifies our permanent mark in the state of Colorado and our recognition for the state that we call home.”

Coloradans of Chinese, South Korean, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Singaporean, Malaysian, Filipino, Indonesian, Thai, Cambodian and Mongolian heritages all celebrate the Lunar New Year in unique ways and at different times. But all of the cultural variants of the new year share similar significance.

These are some common Lunar New Year traditions you may encounter, plus information about where to find festivities across Colorado, with some starting as early as this weekend.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Truong An Gifts, in Federal Boulevard's Far East Center, is busy with Lunar New Year shoppers. Feb. 9, 2021.

Cultural Traditions

Spring cleaning

People begin the new year by cleaning their homes, sweeping away the old and making way for the new. 

Once the cleaning has been completed, celebrants often hang red decorations, such as lanterns, couplets (pairs of auspicious verses), and paper cuttings. Red signifies good fortune and joy, and these decorations are displayed to protect the home from evil spirits and bad luck.

Haircuts and new clothes are also often part of the celebration. Children in particular are likely to receive new outfits, including new shoes, to wear for the holiday.

“On the day of Lunar New Year, you do not clean. You can clean your house before, but on the day of, you do not clean your house. Because you don't want to sweep away the good luck of the new year.”

— Maura Mckay of Denver, Chinese American
Star Kitchen was slammed on Christmas Eve. Federal Boulevard, Dec. 24, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

New Year’s Eve dinner and family time

This is the cornerstone of the Lunar New Year celebration. People often travel long distances to be able to gather together, share a meal, and enjoy fireworks. Many celebrants also watch an annual Chinese New Year special on television. For those who are unable to travel home, and for those who have close relatives overseas, midnight calls are custom to wish each other a happy new year.

“First and foremost, you definitely have to eat noodles. Any type of noodle. Noodles are important for longevity, long life. And it's very important that when you eat them, you do not bite the ends of them. If you get a noodle, you have to eat the full thing to ensure that you have a long life. If you're biting it, then you're shortening your life.”

— Maura Mckay of Denver, Chinese American
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Fireworks explode all over the metro, as seen here from atop Ruby Hill.

Fireworks and firecrackers

Each culture has its own legend surrounding the use of fireworks on New Year’s Eve, but they all share a similar message – the bright lights and loud bangs scare away monsters, demons, and bad luck. Therefore, pyrotechnics are a key part of the celebration.

“In Vietnamese Buddhism, everything comes back to demons. As I learned as a kid, all of our rituals and all of the things that you set up, whether it's where your house is positioned or what statues you're putting up, seems to always come back to demons. So (with fireworks) you’re scaring them away with loud noises."

— Gary Schneider of Englewood, Vietnamese American
(Pexels)
Red envelopes full of lucky money for elders to gift to children and young adults on the Lunar New Year.

Red envelopes

Red envelopes contain lucky money and are given by elders to children and young adults. These gifts are meant to bless the recipients with happiness and health for the upcoming year.

If you plan to give or receive red envelopes, here’s some etiquette to bear in mind:

  • Gift crisp, new bills.
  • Accept a red envelope with two hands to show good manners.
  • Express gratitude for the lucky money.
  • Open envelopes in private and do not discuss how much you were gifted.

“It's kind of like a sacred thing between you and the person who gave it to you. So don't be very braggy about your money or show it off. That could be considered as rude to peers around you.”

— Cece Luu of Adams County, Vietnamese
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Lion dancers with Shaolin Hung Mei Kung Fu march around China Jade Restaurant during Lunar New Year festivities at Federal Boulevard's Far East Center. Feb. 5, 2022.

Lion dances

Lion dance is a style of traditional dance, often accompanied by traditional drumming, in which costumed performers mimic a lion's movements to bring good luck and good fortune. Lion dancing is often performed for the Lunar New Year and other traditional, cultural and religious festivals. 

The lion is typically operated by two young dancers, with one person controlling the lion’s front body and one person controlling the lion’s back body. 

A lion dance can be distinguished from a dragon dance because a dragon dance involves five to seven dancers holding a dragon up with poles.

“In Asian culture, we believe that lion is the king of all the animals. He represents benevolence. He's just trying to, in a way, protect people and bring just good luck to people. That's the most important thing. He's also one of the main holy animals in our belief, besides the dragon of course.”

— Tue Nguyen of Arapahoe County, Vietnamese
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Members of the Colorado Asian Cultural Heritage Center perform during Lunar New Year festivities at the Far East Center on Federal Boulevard. Feb. 5, 2022.

Where to find festivals, markets and celebrations across Colorado

Aspen, Eldora and Winter Park

Lunar New Year Treasure Hunt

Celebrate Lunar New Year on the mountain with a red envelope treasure hunt. Five red envelopes containing lucky prizes will be tucked away on each mountain for guests to find. The event begins at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 11 and continues until all 15 envelopes have been found. Clues will be posted on the @ikonpass Instagram page and reposted by @aspensnowmass, @eldoradomtnresort and @winterparkresort.

Sunday, Feb. 11, starting at 10 a.m. at Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort, Eldora Mountain Resort, and Winter Park Resort.

Aurora

2024 Lunar New Year On Havana Street

Celebrate the new year with international cuisine, live music, lion dancing, taiko drums, a taekwondo performance, global vendors, cultural activities, and more.

Sunday, Feb. 4, noon to 6 p.m. at 2430 S. Havana St.

Lunar New Year Festival

Immerse yourself in festivities with lion and dragon dances, traditional crafts for kids, and a feast of Asian cuisine.

Friday, Feb. 9, 4:30 to 7 p.m. at the Town Center of Aurora, 14200 E. Alameda Ave.

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs Chinese New Year Festival

The Colorado Springs Chinese Cultural Institute will ring in the Year of the Dragon at the Ent Center for the Arts at UCCS in partnership with the UCCS DEI Outreach and Education and the UCCS Asian Studies.

The 2024 celebration will include a traditional lion dance, Taiko drummers, Asian ribbon and fan dances, Chinese musical instrument performances, martial arts exhibitions, a Dragon Dance, Asian aerial acrobats, and more.  

There will also be a “Chinatown” of merchants offering dragon dolls, Asian jewelry, artwork, clothing, and other wares. Visitors can sample Asian teas in the Tea House and children can learn to do Chinese art in the Kid’s Zone. Asian food truck vendors will be curbside to offer authentic food for the celebration.  

Saturday, Feb. 17 at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The Ent Center for the Arts at UCCS, 5225 N. Nevada Ave.

Chinatown, the Tea House and the Kid’s Zone are free to enter and open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Admission for cultural performances is $15 for adults, $10 for Military, students, senior (age 65+), children and CSCCI members. Children under 5 are free.

Denver

Far East Center Lunar New Year 2024 

The Far East Center has been hosting Lunar New Year events since the beginning of January, but festivities will culminate with two full days of cultural performances and presentations, including dragon ice carving, K-pop dancers, karate, tai chi, and lion dances galore.

Saturday, Feb. 10 and Sunday, Feb. 11 at the Far East Center, 333 S. Federal Blvd.

2024 Lunar New Year Community Celebration

Join the Denver Asian American Pacific Islander Commission (DAAPIC) and Colorado AANHPI organizations for this free, family-friendly Lunar New Year Celebration featuring local artists, a food truck park and marketplace, cultural entertainment, and lion dancing.

Saturday, Feb. 3 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the McNichols Building, 144 W. Colfax Ave.

Lunar New Year Gala

Enjoy a Chinese celebration complete with a traditional lion dance, Chinese banquet dinner, lucky red envelope sales, and items for auction. Shop at a Night Market, get your palm read, and dance the night away with a Silent Disco. All proceeds enable the Nathan Yip Foundation to support rural Colorado schools, students, and teachers.

Saturday, Feb. 3 from 5 to 10:30 p.m. at The Grand Hyatt, 1750 Welton St. Tickets start at $250.

Colorado Chinese New Year Celebration

Celebrate the Year of the Dragon with an evening of tradition and culture. Witness a majestic Lion Dance and indulge in a 10-course banquet reflecting the depth of Chinese culinary art. This event celebrates Chinese New Year while supporting the long-lasting friendship between Denver and its sister city Kunming, China.

Saturday, Feb. 17. Cash bar and auction begin at 4:30 p.m. with lion dancing at 5:30 p.m. and banquet service at 6 p.m. Empress Seafood Restaurant, 2825 W. Alameda Ave.

Chinese New Year Celebration

Join the Chinese American Foundation of Colorado and the Denver Chinese School for a cultural fair, marketplace, celebration show, and a taste of China. The day’s events will include crafts, games, acrobats, magicians, lion dancers, musical acts, martial arts, and authentic cuisine.

Saturday, Feb. 10 from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at George Washington High School, 655 S. Monaco Pkwy. General admission is $25.

Dillon

Thai Curry Night

Although not specifically a Lunar New Year event, the 6th Alley Bar & Grill Supper Club is offering a special menu of pork soup dumplings, pumpkin red curry soup, a choice of chicken and pineapple yellow curry or pork green curry, and mango sticky rice with cream of coconut for desert. Reservations required.

Friday, Feb. 2, 6 to 9 p.m. at 6th Alley Bar & Grill, 28194 US-6.

$40 for adults, $25 for kids 7 to 12 years old.

Highlands Ranch

Chinese New Year Celebration

The Highlands Ranch Cultural Affairs Association and Great Wall Chinese Academy are presenting a cultural fair with crafts, costumes, vendors, and more. Plus, a variety of stage performances, including traditional music, Chinese Dragon and Lion dances, folk dances, and Chinese martial arts-Kung Fu demonstrations. Performers are a mix of talented school-age individuals and professionals. 

Saturday, Feb. 10, at the Southridge Recreation Center, 4800 McArthur Ranch Road. The free cultural fair runs from noon to 4 p.m. The $10 stage show is from 2 to 3 p.m.

Fort Collins

Global Adventures – Chinese New Year

The Global Village Museum is presenting a special dinner at Hunan Chinese Cuisine. The evening will include a traditional three-course Chinese New Year’s dinner, non-alcoholic beverages, and dessert. A cash bar will also be available. The event will include speakers from China and participants will share stories of their experiences and travels there.

Saturday, Feb. 10 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Hunan Chinese Cuisine, 731 E. Harmony Road. Reservations are $50 per person and advance registration is required by Feb. 3. 

2024 Lunar New Year Celebration: Year of the Dragon

This festival will feature Asian fusion cuisine, a silent auction, and entertainment including taiko drummers, traditional Filipino dance, and a traditional dragon dance.

Saturday, Feb. 10 from 6 to 9 p.m. at The Lincoln Center, 417 W Magnolia St. Although the event is free, there is a $20 suggested donation.

Longmont

Lunar New Year 2024

The Asian-Pacific Association of Longmont and Silver Creek High School present an afternoon full of free events, including dragon dances, cultural activities, and Asian food sampling to ring in the New Year.

Saturday, Feb. 24 from 2 to 5 p.m. at 4901 Nelson Road.

Parker

Celebrating the Year of the Dragon

Welcome the Lunar New Year at Global Village Academy with free cultural performances, traditional food, crafts, games, and fun activities.

Friday, Feb. 9 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Global Village Academy Douglas County, 18451 Ponderosa Drive.

Silverthorne

Wish Lantern Festival

Silverthorne’s February First Friday arts celebration will feature a wish lantern festival, which draws inspiration from Mexico’s Noche de Candela and the Lunar New Year.

Participants can decorate wish lanterns at the Silverthorne Pavilion, then release them in the Blue River north of the Chipotle bridge. They will be collected downstream by members of the Summit County Water Rescue team. Optimal viewing of the wish lanterns floating down the river will be on the bridge north of Chipotle, the Pavilion bridge, or along the Blue River Trail behind Sauce on the Blue and Red Buffalo Coffee & Tea.

Wish lantern decoration is open from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Lanterns will be released at 6:45 p.m.

Other Lunar New Year celebrations include crafts and story time at Red Buffalo Coffee & Tea from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 2 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Silverthorne Pavilion, 400 Blue River Pkwy.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story misstated the date of Lunar New Year's Eve.

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