Members of Zhong Yi Kung Fu Association perform traditional Chinese lion dancing in celebration of the Lunar New Year at Lisa Link Peace Park on State Street on Feb. 17, 2022.

Across the globe, Asian communities are saying goodbye to the Tiger and welcoming in the Year of the Rabbit — or for some, the Year of the Cat — with dumpling feasts, lion dances and cash-filled red envelopes. 

Considered one of the most important holidays throughout Asian countries, including Vietnam, China and Korea, the Lunar New Year begins Jan. 22 and continues for several days. 

The traditions vary between cultures: In China, communities celebrate for 15 days, concluding with the Spring Lantern Festival; in Vietnam, people ring in Tết for up to a week; and in South Korea, Seollal lasts for three days. 

The animal associations of the zodiac also vary depending on the country. In Vietnam, the holiday will ring in the Year of the Cat rather than the rabbit. That’s because the ancient Chinese word for the rabbit zodiac is pronounced "mao."  According to one theory, it sounds like and became interpreted as "meo" — perhaps by accident — meaning cat in Vietnamese. The sign is associated with good luck in Vietnam.  

Want to celebrate the fresh start and ring in a new year of prosperity? Check out these events across the Madison area:  

Lion Dance Performances — throughout January and February 

Zhong Yi Kung Fu Association will perform lion dances at various venues around Madison throughout the next few weeks. The traditional Chinese dance, also performed in other Asian countries, involves performers who dress in an elaborate lion costume and mimic the animal’s movements to evoke good luck and scare away evil spirits. 

View Zhong Yi’s dancers here

  • Hong Kong Cafe, 2 S. Mills St. — Jan. 22, 28 and 29 at 5:30 p.m.

  • Little Palace, 225 King St. — Jan. 22 and Jan. 29 at 7 p.m.

  • Madison Children's Museum, 100 N. Hamilton St. — Jan. 29 at 2 p.m. 

  • Hedberg Public Library, 316 S. Main St., Janesville — Feb. 4 at 2 p.m. 

  • Vietnamese Student Association, Memorial Union Great Hall, 800 Langdon St. — Feb. 4 at 9:45 p.m.

  • Chinese American Student Association, Union South Varsity Hall, 1308 W. Dayton St. — Feb. 4 at 7 p.m.

  • Downtown Madison, Lisa Link Peace Park, 452 State St. — Feb. 5 from noon to 5 p.m. 

Verona Public Library Party — Saturday, Jan. 21 

Kick off the Lunar New Year with students and staff from Verona Area International School on Jan. 21 starting at 10:30 a.m. After a two-year hiatus online, the celebration is back and in person at 500 Silent St. in Verona. 

Story time and a cultural performance begin at 10:30 a.m. Activities and crafts will start at 11 a.m. throughout the children’s department. No registration is required.

Learn to Cook at DelecTable — Sunday, Jan. 22

For $69, take a cooking class with chef Joel Olson at DelecTable, 3248 University Ave., from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. The menu is inspired by the Year of the Rabbit, with Chinese dishes including gyoza, noodles, spring rolls, steamed fish and sesame cookies. Olson is a culinary instructor with over 20 years of teaching experience. 

Registration is required.  

Eat at Little Palace — Sunday, Jan. 22  

The American Chinese restaurant at 225 King St. will welcome the new year with “a prosperous menu, lucky red envelopes and lion dance.” The lions, performed by Zhong Yi Kung Fu Association, will make their appearance at 7 p.m. on Jan. 22 and Jan. 29. The restaurant is open from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays. 

On Jan. 22, each table will receive a lucky red envelope with up to $100 in value. The special menu for "prosperity, longevity and togetherness" features stuffed crab claw, longevity noodles, golden fried rice, whole snapper, sticky rice balls, sweet fried dumplings and a Year of the Rabbit cocktail. View the menu

UW-Madison Tết Celebration — Saturday, Feb. 4

From 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. in Memorial Union’s Great Hall, the UW-Madison Vietnamese Student Association will celebrate Tết. The festivities — open to the public — include games, prizes, performances and food. 

Doors open at 7:30 p.m., and attendees can RSVP

UW-Madison CHASA Celebration — Saturday, Feb. 4

From 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., UW-Madison's Chinese American Student Association will host its annual Lunar New Year event. Open to the public at Union South's Varsity hall, the party will include free food, lion dance, other performances and prizes. 

CHASA is also looking for volunteers to help run the event. 

Downtown Madison Celebration — Sunday, Feb. 5 

Downtown Madison’s second annual Lunar New Year celebration will include special lion dance performances by Zhong Yi Kung Fu Association starting at noon in Lisa Link Peace Park, 452 State St. After the performance, the lions will venture around State Street at select storefronts to bless and bring prosperity to the downtown businesses. 

Malaysian Student Association Festivities — Saturday, Feb. 11 

The Malaysian Student Association at UW-Madison will host its Lunar New Year on Feb. 11. Activities include crafts like Chinese calligraphy and paper cutting.

There will also be plenty of Malaysian food and snacks. The student association will provide "yee sang," a traditional new year dish for Chinese communities in Malaysia. Known as the “prosperity salad,” the yee sang dish is traditionally prepared by tossing up pickled and fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, raw fish, seasonings, sauces and condiments. Each ingredient is chosen for its symbolism, with fish meaning "abundance.” 

Time and location of this event are still to be determined. Stay up to date on the Malaysian Students Association Facebook page.

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