Joy Cheung, center, enjoys a meal with John Marsch and Theresa Verchinski. Cheung is planning a feast for 20 at Hunan Manor for Lunar New Year in 2023. (Courtesy of Joy Cheung)

Joy Cheung, who grew up in Taiwan, has fond memories of celebrating the Lunar New Year. “On New Year’s Eve, the whole family sat around a round table to enjoy a feast of ten dishes or more,” she said. “New Year’s dinner for Chinese is like Thanksgiving dinner for families in the U.S.”

When she woke up on New Year’s Day, she’d find a red envelope under her pillow. “There was money in the red envelopes from our parents,” said Cheung. “The children would go to the corner store to buy candy and firecrackers. Our parents walked to neighbors’ houses to wish them Happy New Year.”

Children also wore new clothes — including new socks and shoes — on New Year’s Day, added Cheung. “Usually the color was red,” she said. “Red is the color of happiness and hope.”

Today, Cheung is a member of The Village in Howard, a senior village movement that began in Boston more than a decade ago. She brings her Lunar New Year tradition — and its spirit of happiness and hope — to others.

In 2015, members of the Village in Howard celebrated the Chinese New Year at a local restaurant, sharing many dishes placed at the center of a round table. In 2022, Cheung hosted a dumpling wrapping party. 

“For the coming New Year of the rabbit, I have arranged a Chinese banquet for 20 members at Hunan Manor in January 2023,” said Cheung.

Why Lunar New Year?

Although Cheung grew up celebrating Chinese New Year, she has adopted the more often used Lunar New Year. “Because people in many Asian countries — Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Philippines — also celebrate the Chinese New Year, the name Lunar New Year is more inclusive and appropriate,” she said. 

In fact, Lunar New Year in various communities may fall on different dates and be totally different celebrations.

Traditional dishes

Whole fish. The sound of fish — yu — is the same as the word “leftover” or “surplus,” explained Cheung. “Fish symbolizes a bountiful harvest in the coming year.”

Sweet rice cakes. The sound of cake — gao — is the same sound as the word “high” or tall.” We eat rice cakes and hope for advancement in our jobs or in school.

Oranges. The sound of oranges is similar to the words “good luck and prosperity.” Eating oranges will bring you fortune and more money in your business in the coming year. 

Dumplings. The shape of dumplings resembles the boat-shaped silver ingots used in the old days as money. Eating dumplings will bring you wealth in the coming new year. 

Ringing in the Year of the Rabbit

Red envelopes are a traditional symbol of Lunar New Year in East and Southeast Asian cultures. These envelopes were displayed at Live! Casino and Hotel Maryland in 2022.

Live! Casino and Hotel Maryland has been celebrating Lunar New Year for ten years. Kicking off the celebration in January with lanterns and other decorations, Live! 

Celebrations also include special menus, a media event, a cultural ceremony, and a 500-person VIP traditional Lunar New Year.

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