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How to Celebrate the Lunar New Year, Year of the Ox

(LA Trend) — This year the Lunar New Year, or Chinese New Year, falls on February 12 and marks the Year of the Metal Ox. The zodiac rotates in 60-year cycles based on 12 earthly branches represented by animals and on five element years; including wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. The Ox is the second animal of the Chinese zodiac and represents hard work, honesty, and positivity. Although no one can predict what this new lunar year will bring, astrologers have a positive outlook for 2021 due to the ox’s steadfast nature.

Celebrate a new start by enjoying lucky foods and supporting small businesses this February.

Enjoy nian gao, a sweet, glutinous rice cake which is eaten all year round but especially popular on Chinese New Year Eve. These bite-sized sweets are usually decorated with a red dot and sometimes filled with red bean or lotus paste. Get your sweet fix at Long’s Family Pastry in downtown Los Angeles or Kee Wah Bakery in Monterey Park.

Kee Wah, a bakery chain from Hong Kong, is known for its deluxe mooncake packages sold during the Mid-Autumn festival. In addition to Chinese New Year specialty boxes like the Assorted Candies Gift Box with pumpkin seeds crunchy candy, black date candy with walnuts, ginger peanut candy, and chocolate cookies with almonds. While you’re there, browse the self-service pastry case and pick up some custardy egg tarts, Hong Kong egg roll cookies, and freshly baked buns. Kee Wah is offering delivery, online orderings, and curbside pickup. The bakery will soon roll out a bake-at-home series for dessert lovers with a DIY-spirit.

For a savory treat, many people enjoy dumplings on Chinese New Year. Fast-casual dim sum eatery, Din Tai Fung, is known for xiao long bao or soup dumplings which are filled with broth and best eaten hot. Try their luxurious truffle and kurobuta pork dumplings paired with a side of sesame noodles or jidori chicken soup. Order takeout or pickup and enjoy your dim sum meal at home.

Another option for dumplings is a Highland Park favorite, Mason’s Dumpling Shop. Enjoy vegetarian options like the crispy Pan Fried Fish and Napa Dumplings or steamed vegetable dumplings. Don’t miss the sweet and sour lotus root appetizer or the wood ear mushrooms, which are also considered to be lucky foods.

Round out your Lunar New Year celebration with traditional tea. Sip Pu Erh tea, a fermented black tea produced in China’s Yunnan Province, or roasted oolong tea. These digestive teas are the perfect choice after a meal. Enjoy a sweet cup of tea at one of L.A.’s many boba shops or opt for a more curated experience at specialty tea shops like Tea Habitat in Alhambra or Denong Tea in Pasadena.

Another component of many New Year celebrations is the exchange of hongbao or lucky red envelopes containing money. These gifts are usually exchanged among family members to signify luck and prosperity for the new year. Although some gifters are turning the hongbao tradition digital, many still prefer the highly-decorated red envelopes.

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