While the Chinese New Year 2012 was on Monday, January 23, Sacramento will formally greet the Year of the Dragon on February 18, 2012 with the biggest celebration to date.  This is totally appropriate for the 5th and fierce Chinese astrological sign.  According to legend, the dragon sign came to be over 4000 years ago when two large tribes unified to fight against the smaller tribes.  The dragon today symbolizes power and wisdom. Check out http://www.about-sichuan-china.com/year-of-the-dragon.html for more history of the dragon and the significance in Chinese culture.

The Chinese New Year is the longest (15 days) and most important festivity in the Chinese calendar.  It symbolizes new beginnings.  Homes are cleaned, families reunited and feasts prepared.  Red envelopes containing crisp, new dollars are exchanged, always containing an even number of bills and always avoiding the number four.  The Chinese characters for ‘four’ also represent death.  This is not a nice greeting for the New Year!

New Location

To accommodate the over 3,000 attendees expected for The Year of the Dragon celebration, the Chinese New Year Cultural Association has moved the festivities from Sacramento State University to the nearby Scottish Rite Masonic Center, located at 6151 H Street, Sacramento, CA.

New Attractions

Most Chinese New Year celebrations are opened with the Lion Dance.  This year a professional dance troupe will perform the Dragon Dance.  This dance symbolizes the power of the dragon with bold movements.   The lead dancer parades before the dragon holding a pearl on a stick symbolic of the dragon figure as a seeker of wisdom.

Chinese food is an important part of the New Year’s celebration.  For the first time New Year specialty foods will be available.  Over 50 vendors, including several local food establishments, will be in attendance representing the entire Sacramento region.

The Program will include 29 performances, opening with the Dragon Dance and featuring an instrument and dance performance by performers from Jinan China, Sacramento’s sister city.  Children and adults from organizations such as The Elk Grove Chinese Association, Laguna Tai Chi Fellowship, Davis Dynamic Rhythm, China Moon Dance Troupe, the New Star Chinese School, the Sacramento Chinese Confucius School ad the Rainbow Dance Team will entertain with choral, dance, martial arts and instrumental performances.  The complete program can be viewed at http://cnyca.net/

Price: $6.00; children under 12:  $1.00.  Tickets will be available at the door or through local sponsoring organizations prior to the event ($5.00 prior to the event).

Directions: The Sacramento Scottish Rite Masonic Center is easily accessible from Highway 50 or Business Loop 80.  You can get directions from your location here: http://mapq.st/yw3HPH

Learn More: Holidays are so much fun when you understand the cultural background.  Check out http://www.apples4theteacher.com/holidays/chinese-new-year for a roundup of great resources including information on the Chinese Zodiac (Are you a Dragon?), craft instructions for dragons, lanterns, and hats as well as a nice collection of Chinese Folklore stories for children, coloring pages and games.

Chinese Restaurants: Sacramento has so many excellent Chinese Restaurants but if you’d like to do something special to celebrate the Chinese New Year consider getting a big group of people together and heading to:

Frank Fats, 800L Street Sacramento  (voted Best Chinese Food Establishment in Sacramento this year)

For more Best of Sacramento picks: http://sacramento.citysearch.com/bestof/winners/2006/chinese_food

My two favorites are The Rice Bowl and Hop Sing Palace .  Both can accommodate large groups (reservations highly recommended).