Sheep are thought to be gentle and kind, so the upcoming Chinese New Year – the Year of the Sheep – should be good to everyone, regardless of their Chinese astrological sign. But even when the incoming lunar year is a lamb, it’s celebrated with lions. Here are a few family-friendly spots to go celebrate.
Kids in Sheep’s Clothing – Now until March 1
Why not start the Year of the Sheep off with a new look? Take the whole family shopping at Fashion Outlets of Chicago in Rosemont during the Chinese Lunar New Year event. Pick up your lucky red envelope at Saks Fifth Avenue, open it up, and treat yourself to some great deals – including a delicious free sample of Godiva chocolate. Let the kids pick out red outfits for the New Year and then relax, sipping hot tea and comparing fortune-cookie fortunes in the VIP lounge.
Puppets and Plants – Feb. 21
Most celebrations occur in Chinatown, but there are a few exceptions. If your kids like puppets, take them to the Chicago Botanic Garden for the Chinese New Year celebration. It’s a great way to celebrate inside, especially if the weather is cold.
On Feb. 21, the garden hosts the Shaanxi Folk Arts Group from China’s Shaanxi province’s capital city — these performers are true experts in Chinese shadow puppetry and puppet making. They use ancient shadow puppetry techniques to bring classic Chinese tales to life and lead hands-on workshops in shadow-puppet-making and Chinese painting. Make sure to take some pics of the kids’ awed faces while they’re watching the show, as well as a few with the puppets afterward.
The Big Parade – Feb. 22
The main Chinese New Year event is the Lunar New Year Parade on Feb. 22 at 1 p.m. in Chinatown. When you go, you definitely hear it before you see it. Marching bands and dancers wielding Chinese drums come banging down the street in brightly colored traditional outfits, while firecrackers resound from every side street. A 100-foot-long dragon undulates along Wentworth Avenue, stopping to waggle at your kids and send them into a torrent of giggles. And then the lions do their dances, jumping up to “eat” red envelopes of money handed out by local business owners, as well as oranges tossed by brave little children. The cacophony goes on for blocks, and both sides of the street are filled with thousands of equally colorful onlookers, waving to the floats and cheering in the Year of the Sheep.
A Spectacular Banquet – Feb. 26
For families with older kids, go experience an amazing feast. End your Chinese New Year celebrations with a special Lunar New Year Meal hosted by the Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce at the extremely elegant MingHin Cuisine. This banquet includes delectable piles of traditional New Year dumplings, stewed black chicken soup with Chinese herbs, succulent Peking style duck, and much more. You can’t help but admire the elegant plating as each dish comes out, but taking that first savory bite is even better. Later, you and the rest of the family are equally enthralled by the dazzling lion dance. Seating is limited, so reserve in advance – and don’t forget to dress in red (or in traditional Chinese clothing, if you have it.)
However you find yourselves celebrating, gung hay fat choy!