San Diego is home to several significant Lunar New Year events that are worth attending for those who would like to celebrate Year of the Rat.
Lunar New Year (or Chinese New Year if you are of Chinese heritage) is celebrated in China, Vietnam, Korea, Mongolia, Singapore, Tibet and by the many emigrants all over the world from these countries.
The date is based on the lunisolar calendar, which this year is January 25, 2020.
The holiday is incredibly important in our home as my daughter is proud to have been born in Hong Kong. It is by far the most important celebration there, lasting 15 days, though typically only three of those days are public holidays.
Without further ado, here is a list of Lunar New Year events in San Diego.
Jasmine Seafood’s Lunar New Year Charity Gala (TBD)
Jasmine Seafood’s Lunar New Year Charity Gala is a multi-cultural event that will feature Chinese “firecrackers,” lucky lion dancers, 8-course Lunar New Year banquet dinner, live entertainment, and a silent auction.
Proceeds will support the San Diego United Lions Club charitable projects worldwide.
- Friday, January 31
- 6 p.m. registration/7 p.m. networking start
- Buy tickets here
Lion Dances at Jasmine Seafood Restaurant
In addition to the gala above, Jasmine Seafood Restaurant will host lion dances for guest entertainment in the dining hall. The lion dances will happen:
- Friday, January 31 at 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
- Saturday, February 1 at 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
- Sunday, February 2 at 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
- Saturday, February 8 at 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
- Sunday, February 9 at 10:30 a.m.
Food service stops during the 10–15-minute performances so be sure to order plenty of dim sum and other delicious dishes from the carts before the show starts.
It’s recommended that you arrive at least one hour before the shows start to avoid queues and parking issues.
Bring lai see (traditional red envelopes with dollar bills inside) for good luck and to support the student lion troupe and their organization.
Annual San Diego Chinese New Year Food and Cultural Fair
The annual San Diego Chinese New Year Fair hosted by the San Diego Chinese Center spans two days.
The celebration includes a children’s craft area where they’ll have the opportunity to make lanterns before the dragon parade.
Attendees can shop for Chinese handicrafts, eat tons of traditional food, and enjoy live entertainment ranging from acrobats to traditional Chinese music performances. It’s a very well-done event that we enjoy.
- Saturday, February 16 and Sunday, February 17
- 10 a.m.–5 p.m., rain or shine
- Third Avenue and J Street
- Free admission
Lunar New Year Tet Festival at Qualcomm
Presented by the Little Saigon San Diego Foundation, the Lunar New Year Tet Festival will feature lion dances throughout the day, carnival rides, lots and lots of Asian food, martial arts, a pageant contest, an Asian cultural village, a doggie costume contest, and much more. The fact that it’s at SDCCU (Qualcomm) Stadium should give you an idea regarding the festival’s massive size and offerings.
- Friday, January 17–Sunday, January 19
- Friday from 5 p.m.–10 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Sunday from 11 a.m.–8 p.m.
- SDCCU Stadium
- Ticket prices: $4–$6 for entry plus additional costs for food, drink and carnival rides. You can skip the ticket lines by buying them in advance. Parking is free.
Annual San Diego Tet Festival
This annual Tet festival will host several competitions including a Miss Vietnam of San Diego pageant, a pho eating contest, a Golden Voice competition and the opportunity for kids to share their knowledge about Vietnamese culture.
Guests can also look forward to a variety of Vietnamese food, carnival rides and games, firecrackers, and lion dances.
- Friday, January 24–Sunday, January 26
- Friday from 5 p.m.–10 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Sunday from 11 a.m.–9 p.m.
- Mira Mesa Community Park
- Free to enter
International Cottages at Balboa Park
Join the House of China for a Chinese New Year celebration in Balboa Park complete with lion dances, dragon dances, Chinese performances, Kung-Fu, and delicious Chinese specialty food.
- Saturday, January 25 and Sunday, January 26
- 11:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
- Buy tickets here
Lunar New Year at SeaWorld San Diego
Celebrate Lunar New Year at SeaWorld San Diego with an incredible Chinese acrobat show (you can reserve your seats online), amazing local cultural performances, and mouthwatering culinary delights in celebration of Year of the Rat. The fireworks spectacular happens on January 25. Plus, you can enjoy the park’s fantastic rides.
- Select dates between January 11–February 2
- Check the calendar for event times
- SeaWorld San Diego
- Free with admission
Chinese New Year Celebration at Barnard Elementary School
Join Barnard Elementary School in Pacific Beach for a Chinese New Year celebration that includes lion dances, a live DJ, food and more.
- Saturday, February 1
- 11 a.m.–3 p.m.
- Free to enter; carnival wristbands are $10 for the first child and $5 for siblings
How do you celebrate Lunar New Year in San Diego? If there are activities that I’ve missed, please leave them in the comments.
Kung Hei Fat Choy!