Chinese New Year – The Food, Traditions and Celebrations

The Chinese New Year (新年), also known as the Spring Festival (春節), is the biggest holiday of the year for every Chinese family and individual who celebrates. It is a time to remove the bad and the old and welcome in the new and the good. Celebrating Chinese New Year in San Antonio can be fun for everyone! Whether you find out more about the different food, traditions, and celebrations taking place, or get involved with them at home or around the city, Chinese New Year can be a fun way to celebrate and learn more as a family. Here are some great tips and ideas to help you and your family kick off the Year of the Dragon in the brightest way.


Food is a big component when it comes to celebrations in Chinese culture. Different types of feasts are enjoyed, each based on the specific holiday. When it comes to Chinese New Year, while different foods are enjoyed based on the region of Chinese culture, they all serve one purpose: to bring good luck. Here are some staple items that you can easily find around the house or at your grocery stores:

Hot Pot

In Taiwan, Hot Pot is a staple and main dish during Chinese New Year, just like Turkey for Thanksgiving. The idea of Hot Pot resembles a family reunion, which is the most important event taking place during Chinese New Year. The recipe is simple: choose a soup base, choose your protein (thinly sliced) and vegetables, prepare your sauce, and gather everyone around the table to cook and enjoy the food. Some pots even have dividers in the middle so you can enjoy two different types of soup bases at the same time.

Hot Pot
Hot Pot – a staple dish during Chinese New Year Celebration

If you don’t feel like cooking at home, many Chinese restaurants in San Antonio offer Hot Pot as a dish, such as:

  • Sichuan Garden (family style) – 2347 NW Military Hwy, San Antonio, TX 78231
  • Ten Seconds Yunnan Rice Noodle (mini hot pots) – 8222 Agora Pkwy Suite 148, Selma, TX 78154
  • KPot (All you can eat) – 12485 I-10 Suite 103, San Antonio, TX 78230
  • Wild BBQ & Shabu (All you can eat) – 1540 N Loop 1604 E, San Antonio TX 78232


Dumplings, because of their shape that resembles ancient Chinese currency, are a popular main dish for Chinese New Year in many areas of China. Having dumplings at the dinner table represents good fortune for the coming year.


Fish is usually eaten on Chinese New Year’s Eve. The pronunciation of fish (鱼) makes it a homophone for “surpluses” (餘; yú). It is important to note that all the fish that is served shouldn’t be eaten. Instead, having a little leftover ensures you will always have a little extra fortune leading into the new year.


Oranges, particularly mandarin oranges, are another common fruit during Chinese New Year. Its pronunciation, 橘 (jú), is almost identical to the pronunciation of good luck, 吉 (ji). It is also a seasonal fruit that is harvested during the colder season, which makes these sweet fruits easily accessible at this time of year.


There are lots of traditions and superstitions that surround Chinese New Year. Some of them are rather fun and can be a fun way to bring people closer.

Red EnvelopeRed Envelopes

Red envelopes, typically filled with cash, are passed out during Chinese New Year’s celebrations, from married couples or the elderly to children and unmarried juniors. According to the legend, whenever a demon named Sui showed up on Chinese New Year’s Eve, red envelopes would scare it away. Regardless of its truthfulness, almost every child looks forward to making a fortune out of all the little red envelopes they collect during the Chinese New Year.

Blessings and Greetings

Chinese New Year Banner Decoration

The Chinese New Year is often accompanied by enthusiastic greetings, blessing each other with a flourishing year to come. Some of the most common auspicious greetings are such as:

  • 新年快樂(Xin nian kuai le) – Happy New Year
  • 恭喜發財 (Gōng xǐ fā cái) – May you be happy and prosperous
  • 萬事如意 (Wàn shì rú yì) – May all your wishes be fulfilled

Some people also try to tie the greetings with the zodiac of the upcoming new year. 2024 is the year of the Dragon, so here are a few greetings you can use to impress your Asian friends:

  • 龍年大吉 (Lóng nián dàjí!) – Wishing you great luck in the Year of the Dragon!
  • 龍馬精神 (Lóng mǎ jīngshén)”: Wishing you the spirit and vitality of the dragon and horse.
  • 龍腾虎躍 (Lóng téng hǔ yuè)”: Dragons soaring and tigers leaping (symbolizing vigorous energy and power).


We wear new red clothing and we decorate everything with red for Chinese New Year, including red banners with Chinese auspicious blessings or words resembling good fortune. You may have seen two red banners on each side of the front door or the cut-out of a single Chinese character posted on the wall.

Paper Chinese FirecrakerThese single-character posters typically are words meaning fortune or luck, such as:

  • 福 (Fu) – Blessing
  • 春 (Chūn) – Spring

Because the word upside down (倒) has the same pronunciation as arrival, these posters are meant to be put upside down when decorating.

Here is a tutorial with videos on how to make Chinese firecrackers with paper for the Lunar New Year, so your kids can exercise their crafting talents!


Lion Dance

Unlike Western holidays, because the Chinese follow the Lunar calendar there is no set date for Chinese New Year on the solar calendar. Luckily, it falls on a Saturday this year, which is February 10. That means families will have more chance to visit some of the different celebrations taking place in San Antonio and the surrounding areas:

San Antonio Asian New Year Festival | Rolling Oaks Mall

Rolling Oaks Mall is hosting a 2-day event on Saturday and Sunday, February 10 & 11, 2024. Celebrate with dance, music, food, martial arts, and other Asian traditions. Each culture celebrates the Lunar New Year differently, with various foods and traditions that symbolize prosperity, abundance, and togetherness. Free parking and free admission.

Chinese New Year Lion Dance | Tim’s Oriental & Seafood Market

One of SA’s local favorite Asian grocery stores, Tim’s Oriental & Seafood Market, will host their annual lion dance celebration on Sunday, February 11 at 2 pm. The event is FREE and will take place in their parking lot so parking space will be limited.

Lunar New Year Celebration | Buddhist Temple of San Antonio

Phuoc Hue Buddhist Temple of San Antonio will host a celebration with prayer, a short chant, a Lion dance, and a vegetarian dinner on Friday, February 9 at 8 pm.

Kids Lion Dance
My kid performing a lion dance at home in her hand-made lion head.

Lunar New Year’s Celebration | IBPS Austin – Xiang Yun Temple

Xiang Yun Buddhist Temple in Austin will have a 3-day ceremony to welcome the Year of Dragon, ending with a cultural festival on Sunday, February 11 from 11 am to 3 pm. The event is free and guests can enjoy multi-cultural performances, cultural booths, and purchase Asian vegetarian dishes at the temple. Please note that shopping vouchers will be used for food and souvenirs, and these can be pre-ordered on their website.

Chinese New Year is celebrated all around the world. Even if we do not have a Chinatown in San Antonio, we hope you can still find a way to get a feel for what the celebrations are like. If you can, be sure to enjoy some amazing food and the atmosphere at some of the vibrant celebrations around the city!

Judy Tsai
A first generation immigrant who came to the U.S. for the first time when she was 21 and settled in Texas since then. Judy loves to celebrate both her Taiwanese heritage and all the San Antonio fun happenings. She is mom to an animal lover & expert - August (2015) and Autumn (2018) aka #Meimei (little sister in Chinese). When she is not "mom-ing", Judy works in marketing, makes websites, and runs her own AirBNB. In her free time, she enjoys making crafts, cooking yummy food, volunteering at school and traveling to places whenever she can.