Celebrating Lunar New Year In Rochester

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Didn’t we already celebrate New Year? Sure, I remember. We ushered in the year 2024 starting on January first at midnight. There were fireworks and most of us got the day off of work and school. Right? Well, that is true, if you follow the Gregorian calendar which is a solar calendar and generally accepted as the world standard. However, there are other cultures and religions that follow a lunar calendar or a lunisolar calendar, which means that the cycles of the moon are followed or condsidered along with the position of the sun.

Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year is the beginning of the new year based on the lunar calendar or lunisolar calendar. You may think that you have never heard of Lunar New Year but you probably heard of it referred to as Chinese New Year. That’s because the date of Lunar New Year for most East Asian countries comes from a date on the Chinese Calendar, which is lunisolar. More accurately, Lunar New Year is an event that is celebrated by numerous cultures in various ways for different lengths of time. This year, Lunar New Year officially falls on February 10th.

Just this past September, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation to declare Asian Lunar New Year a public school holiday across New York state. This is a big deal! While the Asian community in Monroe County is relatively small – under 4% of the total population – New York state is home to the second largest Asian population in the United States. It is also the fastest-growing racial and ethnic group nationwide, with about 7% of the population (roughly 22 million Americans) claiming full or partial Asian heritage a 2023. This new law allows over two million New Yorkers to more comfortably and proudly celebrate this special holiday.

Challenges To Celebrating

I can attest to the reality that celebrating a holiday in a community where the population majority does not celebrate is difficult! There are no sales, no promotions, no readily avaliable decorations or special foods, and no time off work or school. Yes, you can make it work. But planning a celebration is stressful enough, even when everything you need is easily accessible.

Think about how easy it is to find a turkey at Thanksgiving time or an American flag near July 4th. It takes creativity and determination to make a holiday work in a schedule where it is not accomodated. Yes, you can choose to pull your children from school. But keep in mind that Lunar New Year is not a religious holiday so it is considered an unexcused absence from school and your child will have to make up the schoolwork that they missed. That kind of takes away from the holiday magic.

My family celebrates Lunar New Year. More specifically, we celebrate Seollal, written 설날 in Korean. In Korea, Seollal is an important three-day celebration. The government essentially shuts down, many businesses are closed, children do not attend school, and most people travel back to to their hometowns to be with extended family. Like most holidays worldwide, regardless of country, Lunar New Year is a time when special foods are eaten, special prayers are said, traditional games are played, traditional clothing is worn, and special music and dances are enjoyed. There are fireworks, parties, parades, and money!

My family is unable to celebrate in a such a grand way here in Rochester so we have to modify. We choose the Saturday that’s closest to the actual holiday if it falls on a week day. We eat Korean food and our children bow to receive envelopes of money. We send gifts to our children’s foster families in Korea. Most importantly, we find an event in Rochester to attend in order to celebrate with the greater Asian community at large.

Celebrating Lunar New Year in Rochester

Check out some of these events happening around Monroe County. Experts predict that the Asian community will continue to grow in the United States. Now that Lunar New Year is an official public school holiday in New York State, I predict that the number of Lunar New Year events will increase, as well. I’m looking forward to a time when my family will be able to participate in a large community celebration right here in the near future.

Lunar New Year Kickoff
International Services Offices, University of Rochester
University of Rochester, Wilson Commons – May Room, Rochester 14627
Friday, February 9, 2024
5:30 PM – 8:30 PM
Click HERE for tickets! (It’s free!)

Lunar New Year Festival
MCC Global education and International Services and Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs
MCC Brighton Campus, Flynn Campus Center, 100 East Henrietta Road, Rochester 14623
Saturday, February 10, 2024
11:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Click HERE for tickets! (It’s free!)

Chinese New Year – Year of the Dragon
Rochester Kung Fu & Fitness
2496 Ridge Rd W, Rochester 14626
Saturday, February 10, 2024
4:00 PM
Click HERE for more information! OR Click HERE for more information!

Annual Chinese New Year Animal Show: Welcome The Year of the Dragon
The Artists Cave
4639 Culver Rd, Rochester 14622
Saturday, February 10, 2024
12:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Click HERE for more information!

Pleasure Lanes
144 South Ave, Hilton, NY 14468
Saturday, February 10, 2024
9:00 PM
Click HERE for more information!

2024 New Year Challenge – Year of the Dragon 2.024 Mile – Benefitting Operation Underground Railroad
Now – Feburary 29, 2024
Click HERE to register and for more information!

Lunar New Year Around the World

This list is just a sample to illustrate the different length of Lunar New Year celebrations in different countries.

China: public holiday 2/9 – 2/17 but celebrated through 2/26
Hong Kong: public holiday 2/10 – 2/13
Macau: public holiday 2/9 – 2/14
Malaysia: public holiday 2/10-2/12 but celebrated through 2/25
North Korea: public holiday 2/10
Philippines: public holiday 2/10
Singapore: public holiday 2/10-2/12
South Korea: public holiday 2/9-2/12
Taiwan: public holiday 2/8 – 2/14
Thailand: observed 2/10-2/12
Vietnam: public holiday 2/9-2/10 but celebrated through 2/14