This year’s Lunar New Year celebrations across New York City—and around the country—will look different than any in recent memory. The lion dances, fireworks and large family gatherings that traditionally accompany it will not be the norm in 2021. Still, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Mongolian and other populations here and elsewhere will find ways to observe the Year of the Ox, and everyone is welcome to join in.
February 12 marks the beginning of the new year according to the lunar calendar, and socially distant festivities have already started. You can enjoy virtual events, place a takeout or delivery order for a feast to enjoy in your own home and, in a few select instances, venture outside for pop-up events—all of which will help to usher in a year intended to be full of fortune, health and wealth.
Virtual Celebrations at Home
February 12, 13, 19 and 26
One event is already in the books (February 6) but is available to stream on YouTube: see a puppet show, a musical performance of a Korean new year’s song and a kung fu demonstration. Other Lunar New Year celebrations during the month include dumpling and noodle making, storytimes, crafting and calligraphy demos.
Lunar New Year festivities can span a one- or two-week period. On the eve of the new moon, Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company will broadcast the beloved lion dance, acrobats soaring in the air, a moon guitar solo and even operas. Broadcasts are slated for the first and second days of the new year too.
This family-friendly event kicks off at 11am with a lion dance and puppet performance. Virtual workshops, including dumpling-making and watercolor-painting sessions, follow. Lists of ingredients and craft materials are available online so you can buy them ahead of time, but registration is free.
Families often gather at temples for Lunar New Year celebrations. Flushing Town Hall is putting on this virtual event, which features puppet performances, arts and crafts, food demonstrations and dances—all performed by locals.
Get your construction materials ready to make paper lanterns, as an instructor from the museum guides you in this holiday tradition. Register (for free) ahead of time.
This Staten Island institution has a virtual parade you can join, as well as storytelling, crafts and, for adults, calligraphy pointers.
Where to Order In
This beloved hot pot spot is part of a popular international chain, though the ingredients—from different cuts of meats to leafy vegetables—are much better than standard-issue. In addition to limited outdoor seating, the restaurant offers takeout. Either way, it’s interactive—what some dub “Chinese fondue,” since you cook the ingredients yourself in a bubbling cauldron of spiced broth.
In a city of dumpling purveyors, tiny White Bear stands out. There are nearly three dozen menu items, but everyone comes for an order (or two) of the Number 6: a dozen wontons—delicate snow-white dumpling wrappers filled with pork—topped with chili oil.
Flushing, Queens, and East Village, Manhattan
Szechuan cuisine has become more popular in recent years, thanks in part to restaurants like Szechuan Mountain House emphasizing the region’s more traditional food over Chinese American classics. A bowl of fiery dan dan noodles (a symbol of longevity) or a whole braised fish (prosperity) is ideal for Lunar New Year.
The Chinese and Taiwanese fare here comes from a chef with experience at some of New York City’s most respected restaurants, including Il Buco Alimentari. Chef Xiaowei Zheng originally opened a tasting-menu-focused spot, but during the pandemic, he has turned to comforting options like braised pork with rice, noodle soups and stir-fry dishes.
Another Szechuan favorite, Birds of a Feather presents food as stylish as its dining room (or rather, its current outdoor setup). Any number of the chili-spiked dishes—try the cumin lamb and spicy soft shell crab—arrive with a cloud of peppery smoke and are great for sharing.
The second-oldest restaurant in Chinatown (runner-up to Nom Wah Tea Parlor) is a textbook example of the kind of Chinese American food that remains a go-to. To wit: the mushroom egg foo young, which arrives swimming in a brown gravy sauce. Other popular items include pan-fried flounder over choy sum.
Midtown East, Manhattan
This stunning establishment took over the former home of Le Cirque, one of the most respected French restaurants in NYC. The menu skews Northern Chinese with upscale spin. In a glammed-up art deco room, you’ll find dishes like Peking duck and ma la beef tenderloin as well as more humble plates like fried chili noodles.
Manor Heights, Staten Island
A longtime borough favorite, Tack’s is what you want in a Chinese American takeout joint. The menu features all the favorites—lo mein, fried rice, sesame chicken—prepared quickly and with fresh ingredients.
Ongoing, Chinatown, Manhattan
Manhatttan Chinatown’s streets were particularly quiet early in the pandemic. A local push by the Light Up Chinatown project, involving a number of neighborhood organizations and individuals, raised money to line Mott Street between Canal and Pell Streets with colorful lanterns hovering above the road. Plans are to extend this next to Bayard Street between Mott and Bowery—ideally in late February. The lights are designed by local artists, who adorned them with Chinese characters that stand for love and longevity, among other things. Send Chinatown Love, one of the organizations instrumental in the lantern project, is also sponsoring a February-long Lunar New Year Crawl, with participants in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn.
Through February 28, Flushing, Queens
The garden is celebrating with two offerings: a free craft activity kit, which you can use to make your own paper blossom branch, and a plant sale, which includes popular Lunar New Year options such as jade plants and peace lilies.
It’s traditional to receive a new calendar when you’ve patronized a business around Lunar New Year. Building on this practice, Welcome to Chinatown has collaborated with WOW Project and the Abrons Arts Center to give away a photo calendar focused on products from 18 Chinatown businesses. When you spend $20 at a participating vendor, you’ll be gifted a free calendar—as long as supplies last.
Anita Lo, chef-owner of beloved (and defunct) restaurant Annisa and an alum of the television show Top Chef Masters, leads a virtual dumpling-making class ($49.99 per screen). She walks participants through every step of making the popular treats, which represent wealth for the year ahead.
The Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce is a resource and membership association fostering economic opportunities for the Flushing community through advocacy, networking, innovative markets, business expos, regional campaigns and more.