Lunar New Year is coming up on February 10, 2024, and you might be thinking, “well, I’d love to introduce myself to celebrating this tradition if I was in China, but I’m not, so I guess I’m out of luck.” Fortunately, you don’t have to be in China to celebrate the Lunar New Year, or expose yourself to its time-honored traditions. You might even be surprised to learn that one of the best places to celebrate is actually right here in the United States.
Houston hosts one of the biggest Lunar New Years celebrations in the country. The Lunar New Year marks the beginning of the new year based on the lunar calendar, celebrating the arrival of spring. It’s among the most important and widely-observed holidays in Asia in countries like South Korea, Vietnam, and, most notably, China. It’s defined by performances, flower markets, dancing, and indulging in traditional Lunar New Year foods. The holiday is also celebrated by communities around the world, especially in cities with large populations from Asian countries. Houston is one of those cities with the second largest number of Vietnamese residents in the country as well as one of the largest Chinese populations, and Houston truly marks the occasion like no other.
How Houston celebrates Lunar New Year
Houston’s Botanic Garden is home to a Chinese lantern installation showcasing the deep history of the Lunar New Year, including displays like a 200-foot-long dragon, illuminated swings, and other immersive experiences. An even bigger celebration is happening down the road in 2024 at the Texas Lunar Festival in the Alief Career Center, which features a packed program of performances, calligraphy demonstrations, kung-fun, a magic show, vendors, and other attractions.
According to Cory Nguyen, chef at Houston’s Crawfish & Noodles, the immersive performances are what set Houston’s Lunar New Year apart from others. “What makes this such a great place to celebrate the Lunar New Year are the firecrackers and Lion Dancing (a form of traditional Chinese dance),” he says. “It’s an incredible show and all the businesses do it, so for one or two weeks you will see it nonstop. The purpose is to bring good fortune and good luck for the year.”
Exploring Houston’s Asiatown during Lunar New Year
If you’re celebrating Lunar New Year in Houston, Asiatown is the heart of the action. Full of traditional Asian restaurants, hotels, cultural experiences, and shopping, Asiatown is home to a wide range of influences, including Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Pakistani, Korean, Malaysian, and more.
Start by visiting the Teo Chew Temple next to Arthur Story Park. This Vietnamese Buddhist temple is known for its statues of Quan Am, the goddess of mercy, as well as Guan Yin, Shakyamuni Buddha, Tien Hou, Lord Guan, and more. There’s also a wishing well with the 12 zodiac signs, where visitors can toss coins and hold their breath while making a wish. For a sampling of Asian cuisine, check out the Hong Kong City Mall, which has a diverse selection of over 20 restaurants and cafes, and a market with produce and seafood. For a more traditional restaurant experience, Crawfish & Noodles is a Viet-Cajun restaurant that puts a creative twist on classic Vietnamese cuisine.
“It’s a great representation of Vietnamese food,” Nguyen says. “We cook food we actually want to eat with our families.”
Where to stay in Houston during Lunar New Year
To extend your cultural experience to your accommodations, the Blossom Houston Hotel is a hearty helping of Chinese design right in the heart of the city. Influenced by Asian heritage, with lunar-inspired accents and decor, the hotel is truly a nod to the city’s international community. Though located just steps from the Texas Medical Center, near Rice University and NRG Stadium, the hotel’s thoughtfully-curated cultural aesthetic quickly makes you forget you’re in Texas at all. That, and the rooftop pool with skyline views, makes it the ideal base for your Lunar New Year festivities.
Blossom Houston Hotel: 7118 Bertner Avenue, Houston, TX 77030