Category: Fairs & Festivals

10 Interesting Things You’ll Learn from Disney’s Lunar New Year Celebration

10 Interesting Things You’ll Learn from Disney’s Lunar New Year Celebration

Like the Plaza de la Familia, which introduced those unfamiliar with Día de los Muertos to the Mexican holiday, Disney’s Lunar New Year Celebration at California Adventure provides insight into an occasion special in Asian culture.

While you may not notice it when enjoying the fun activities and food, you might find yourself learning something new about Lunar New Year.  Here are 10 interesting things that you’ll learn from the Lunar New Year Celebration at DCA:

#1: What Year It Is

Well, you already know what year it is, but you might not know what year it is according to the lunar calendar.  Once you enter the Lunar New Year Celebration area (starting by The Little Mermaid ride), you’ll know that it’s the Year of the Dog.

There are multiple banners featuring Pluto.


#2 Why It’s Not Just Called “Chinese New Year”

Colloquially, Lunar New Year is more commonly referred to as, “Chinese New Year.”  While the majority of those who celebrate Lunar New Year are Chinese, several Asian countries also recognize the holiday.

In addition to China, Korea and Vietnam are featured.  Feel free to click the images to read about how each country celebrates Lunar New Year.

As for the zodiac signs, you’ll find that the Korean and Vietnamese zodiacs are very similar to the Chinese one.  Therefore, as much as it makes sense to say, “According to the Chinese Zodiac,” you could also say, “According to the Korean and Vietnamese zodiacs.  Again, the Chinese zodiac is just more well-known.

If you’re interested in reading more about the different zodiacs, I recommend the following websites:

  1. Chinese Zodiac
    1. China Highlights
  2. Korean Zodiac
    1. Korean Class Massive
    2. Transparent Language
  3. Vietnamese Zodiac
    1. Things Asian

#3 What Lunar New Year Celebrates

The term “Lunar New Year” reveals how the new year is determined.  “Lunar” comes from the Latin word for moon and the moon is used to calculate when the new year begins.  According to How Stuff Works, the date is normally “on the second new moon after the winter solstice.”

A subtler element to the Lunar New Year Celebration is its incorporation of flowers.  Another name for the holiday is the Spring Festival because it indicates the transition from winter to spring.

#3 The Lucky Colors

Besides it being the Year of the Dog, you’ll undoubtedly notice the colors*.  Red and gold are prominent in this section of California Adventure.   Per A China Family Adventure, red symbolizes happiness, life, and celebration, and “gold represents wealth and prosperity.”

*Side note: The line for the free face painting gets extremely long.  Ergo, make sure to get in line as early as you can if you want to get your face painted.

#4 What NOT to Wear

You know how that rule with white clothes and Labor Day?  Well, the same rule applies to any day of the Lunar New Year Celebration.  White is unacceptable because it’s associated with death.  Technically, Mulan is breaking the rules, but what else is new?  When in doubt, wear red.

If you’re interested in more Lunar New Year taboos, I recommend the article “Chinese New Year Taboos-Things You Should Not Do During Chinese New Year” by China Highlights.

#5 The Asian Version of New Year’s Resolutions

Arguably, making new year’s resolutions is a tradition as iconic as the fireworks.  The Lunar New Year take on this is the wishing tree/wishing wall.  The idea is that you would toss a red ribbon up into the wishing tree, and if the ribbon stays in the tree your wish will come true.  As a play on this tradition, you can see this wishing tree with ribbons tied to the branches at the festival’s AP Corner.

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Like CBS points out, wishing walls are the modern take on wishing trees.  Disney’s version has Mickey-shaped cards that you write your wish on and then tie onto strings.

#6 How to Decorate in Style

Colors have a lot to do with the Lunar New Year Celebration, so you can’t go wrong with red and gold decorations.  The main decorations that you’ll notice in California Adventure (besides their colors) are the lanterns and firecrackers.

A China Family Adventures article Chinese New Year Decorations goes into much greater detail, but in summary the lanterns “represent vitality and prosperity” and the firecrackers “represent the loud, happy, cracking noises of the season.”

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There’s even a section at Disney’s Lunar New Year Celebration where you can color and create your own lantern featuring Pluto.

#7 The Art of Calligraphy

Traditionally, the art of calligraphy involves skillfully using a brush to paint meaningful symbols on red paper.  These symbols can then be hung up as an additional decoration to help bring good fortune.

One of the fun, free things that you can experience at California Adventure during this time of year is the calligraphy.  The picture is of my name spelled out phonetically, “Kim-ber-ly.”

#8 How to Ring in the New Year

Whether it’s parades or fireworks, Disney is known for their thoughtful entertainment, which is evident at the Lunar New Year Celebration.  Each country featured has their own authentic entertainment.


The Gugu Drum Group performs in front of Paradise (soon-to-be Pixar) Pier.  The show is long (around 30 minutes), but I was truly encapsulated by the quick and synchronized drumming.

Korea and Vietnam

Luna Lee and Dat Nguyen perform at the Paradise Garden Bandstand (the area at the back of California Adventure by Goofy’s Sky School).  I didn’t get to witness their performances firsthand, but I’m sure that they are really entertaining as well.

You can find out their show times by picking up a schedule when you enter the park or by reading the signs by the bandstand.

The Disney Spin on Lunar New Year Entertainment

In addition, you can watch Mulan’s Lunar New Year Procession and Hurry Home (a World of Color-esque show that features a lantern).

My recommendation would be to plan what you want to see to make sure that you don’t miss anything.  For instance, I thought that I would have time between the Gugu Drum Group and Mulan’s Lunar New Year Procession.  However, since the Gugu Drum Group’s performance ran longer than I expected.  Consequently, by the time I went to see the procession there was already a huge crowd.

It can get hard to see Mulan’s Lunar New Year Celebration if you have a lot of people in front of you.

To ensure that you get a front-row, unobstructed view, you should allow 15-20 minutes before each show .

#9 What You Should Give as Presents

There are a bunch of Disney’s Lunar New Year Celebration merchandise available for purchase, including Disney red envelopes.

You’ll commonly see the red envelopes for Lunar New Year.  Again, the red symbolizes good luck and the amount inside varies depending on the age of the recipient.  In other words, the older you are the more money you get as a sign of respect.

For more on red envelops, check out Google’s “8 Things You Should Know About the Lucky Red Envelope.”

Additionally, a less common (but still very prevalent) gift during this time of year is bamboo, which also brings good luck.

#10 Lunar New Year Celebration Food

Last but not least, let’s talk food offerings.  Each country has their own food booths.  These booths serve as a great way to ease yourself into trying new Asian food.




Additional Food Offerings

Pork Bao and Almond Cookies

The following articles talk about what foods are characteristic of Lunar New Year, but please comment below if you celebrate this holiday and have a favorite treat.

I hope you enjoyed this post!  Disney’s Lunar New Year Celebration 2018 lasts until February 18th.  Please feel free to share the post if you learned something new.

Thanks for reading!

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