Kung Hei Fat Choy (Happy Chinese New Year, or literally, wishing you great happiness and prosperity)! Welcome to the year of the Metal Ox!

This Friday, February 12, is Chinese New Year (and Lunar New Year for many Asian cultures).

In Hawaiʻi, where we have the good fortune of celebrating many cultural festivals, Chinatown traditionally holds a block party where people can welcome the new year, usher in good fortune, send away any negative energy, and come together to feast.

The Sounds, Sights, and Smells of Chinese New Year

From the colorful lions, jerky movements, and drums and cymbals of the festive Lion Dance, to the sparks, smoke, and sound of firecrackers as they scare away bad spirits, Chinese New Year in Hawaiʻi is full of exciting sounds, sights, and smells.

However, some people with cerebral palsy and similar diagnoses experience these sensory inputs (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch) differently. As such, there are many elements of the celebration that can be overwhelming to people who are sensitive to loud sounds, strong smells, and bright colors and visual stimulation.

Celebrating from Home

This year is different as we all continue to do our part to avoid large crowds and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our island community, but you can still celebrate from home!

We’ve put together a list of 5 Sensory Safe Ways to Celebrate Chinese New Year from Home that can be fun even if you donʻt have a loved one who may have sensory sensitivities.

5 Sensory Safe Ways to Celebrate Chinese New Year from Home

1. Wear Red

It is believed that red is a lucky color that drives away bad spirits. Have each family member wear their favorite red outfit. It helps everyone feel festive and makes for great family photos.

2. Eat Lucky Food

Support local and get delivery or take-out from your neighborhood Chinese restaurant. Add some lucky new yearʻs food to your usual order:

  • Whole Fish: No matter the preparation, having a whole fish with head and tail intact represents a good start and end to the new year.
  • Jai: Sometimes called Monk’s Food, jai is a vegetarian dish full of flavor and meaning. Each ingredient represents a blessing, such as water chestnut for unity, and long rice for long life.
  • Dumplings: Jiaozi, sometimes called potstickers or even their Japanese name, gyoza, represent wealth.
  • Nian Gau: Just called gau in Hawaiʻi, this sweet, glutinous rice cake is eaten to bring prosperity in business and to have general improvement in life.
  • Jin Dui: Another dessert, jin dui is a deep fried pastry filled with different fillings and covered in sesame seeds. These represent growth in business and family unity.


3. Make Chinese Lions and Firecrackers

If your family is the crafty sort – or even if they’re not –spend some time together making Chinese Lion Puppets and Red Firecrackers to decorate the home.


4. Give Red Envelopes

In families, red envelopes, or lai see, are filled with money and often given by grandparents or parents to younger members of the family (children, grandchildren, and young adults). If you don’t want to venture out to buy red envelopes, consider making some.


5. Spend Time Together

Like many holidays, Chinese New Year is about spending time together with your loved ones. Whether you’re in the same household, or far apart, find a way to enjoy each other’s company safely.

Wishing you and your loved ones great happiness and prosperity. Kung Hei Fat Choy!