19 Community Leaders Share Their Chinese New Year Celebrations

19 Community Leaders Share Their Chinese New Year Celebrations

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This article is part of our Chinese New Year Family Guide. Sign up for our newsletter to receive family-friendly activity, recipe and craft ideas throughout the year!

Whether your family says Gung Hey Fat Choy in Cantonese, Gong Xi Fa Cai in Mandarin or Happy New Year in English, Chinese New Year is undeniably a time of happiness and celebration. On January 28, we will officially welcome the Year of the Rooster and with it share wishes for good fortune and prosperity in the year ahead.

Amidst my family’s Chinese New Year preparations, I became curious about how others would be celebrating the holiday themselves. So I started reaching out on Twitter to some of my favorite luminaries in the Chinese American community — journalists and chefs, artists and activists — to conduct a fun, single question interview.



The responses I received amazed and inspired me. Everyone from the playwright David Henry Hwang to former Oakland mayor Jean Quan to rock guitarist Richard On to New York television icon Kaity Tong replied with reports of family, food and cultural traditions.

Whether you mark the new year in the bustling heart of a Chinese neighborhood or in a small town with little Chinese culture nearby, know that you are part of a large multicultural community of Americans sharing celebrations across the United States.

This brings us to the most important question of all. How will your family celebrate Chinese New Year? Browse the inspiring stories below, then add your celebration to the comments section.

Your turn! How does your family celebrate Chinese New Year? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!


David Henry Hwang, Playwright

David Henry Hwang

Acclaimed dramatist David Henry Hwang is best known as the author of M. Butterfly, the enduring 1988 work that won a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, John Gassner Award and Outer Critics Circle Award. His 30 year career has frequently explored issues of ethnicity and identity through award-winning productions like Golden Child, The Dance and the Railroad and Yellow Face.


Nancy Yao Maasbach, Non-Profit Leader

Nancy Yao Maasbach

Nancy Yao Maasbach is the President of the Museum of Chinese in America. After launching in 1980 as a community organization called the New York Chinatown History Project, MOCA now occupies a beautiful 14,000 square-foot space designed by famed architect Maya Lin. Nancy previously served as executive director of the Yale-China Association and worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs.


Leland Wong, Artist

Leland Wong

An icon in San Francisco Chinatown, Leland Wong is a prolific photographer, painter and master dumpling maker. His art focuses on telling his community’s story — the streets, cafes and people that have shaped his life. Leland has exhibited his work throughout the Bay Area and also illustrated one of my son’s favorite books, Exploring Chinatown: A Children’s Guide to Chinese Culture.


Kaity Tong, TV Journalist

Kaity Tong

Kaity Tong is the Emmy award winning news anchor of the PIX11 News weekend edition in New York. Known for her professionalism, warmth, and quick wit, Kaity has been one of Manhattan’s most popular local news anchors for more than 20 years. On a personal note, I can remember watching Kaity on ABC’s Eyewitness News while growing up in the New York area during the 1980s!


Kian Lam Kho, Chef & Author

Kian Lam Kho

Longtime Red Cook food blogger Kian Lam Kho is the author of Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees, winner of the 2016 IACP Julia Child First Book Award. Though he originally trained as a software engineer, Kian rededicated himself to his first love of cooking after apprenticing at the Canteen restaurant in New York in 2003.


Janet Wong, Author

Janet Wong

Janet Wong is the author of more than 20 books for young readers, including This Next New Year and, my son’s favorite, Apple Pie 4th of July. Janet began writing children’s literature after several years as an attorney and has since been featured on CNN and The Oprah Winfrey Show, and appeared as a speaker all around the world, including the White House.


Jean Quan, Community & Civil Rights Advocate

Jean Quan

Jean Quan served Oakland, California, as the first Chinese American mayor of a major United States city, following distinguished work on the Oakland School Board and City Council. Jean’s roots in Oakland date to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake when family members crossed the Bay to become part of a new Oakland Chinatown.


Lisa See, Author

Lisa See

Lisa See is the New York Times bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Shanghai Girls and China Dolls. Her writing frequently focuses on the lost stories of compelling Chinese and Chinese American women. Her book On Gold Mountain details her family’s 100-year history in America, which stretches back to the building of the transcontinental railroad.


Ed Lin, Author

Ed Lin

Noted author Ed Lin is the first writer to win three Asian American Literary Awards. Ed is known for his novel Waylaid, subsequently made into a feature film directed by Michael Kang, and his trilogy of crime novels featuring Chinese American police detective Robert Chow set in 1970s Chinatown.


Grace Young, Chef & Author

Grace Young

A three-time IACP award-winning writer, Grace Young has been called the “poet laureate of the wok” by food historian Betty Fussell. Her cookbooks, including Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge, The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen and The Breath of a Wok, have won raves from the New York Times, Washington Post and National Public Radio. Grace has lectured on Chinese wok culture and cooking across the United States.


Kristie Hang, Journalist

Kristie Hang

Kristie Hang is a globe-trotting, multi-platform journalist, food and travel blogger and television personality. She’s reported live from the Oscars and Golden Globes, traveled the world and co-founded the 626 Foodettes Blog, accumulating more than 220 million views worldwide along the way.


Michele Wong McSween, Author

Michele Wong McSween

Michele Wong McSween is the creator of the Gordon & Li Li series of bilingual board books that help kids learn numbers, animals and everyday words in both English and Mandarin. She created Gordon & Li Li with an appealing, simple and modern design aesthetic that engages kids and parents alike.


Ming Tsai, Chef & Author

Ming Tsai

Ming Tsai is a James Beard and Emmy award winning chef, author and television host. Owner of the Blue Ginger and Blue Dragon restaurants in the Boston area, Ming is also the author of several East-West fusion cookbooks and hosts the popular television cooking programs Ming’s Quest and Simply Ming.


Richard On, Musician

Richard On

Richard On is a guitarist with the rock band O.A.R. and has toured the United States behind hits like Shattered, Peace, That Was a Crazy Game of Poker and Hey Girl. In addition to their studio work, the band is well known for their live shows and extensive summer touring. Richard and O.A.R. will join Train for a tour of outdoor amphitheaters during the summer of 2017.


Virginia Loh-Hagan, Author

Virginia Loh-Hagan

Virginia Loh-Hagan is the author of the new children’s picture book, PoPo’s Lucky Chinese New Year. An author, educator, and curriculum designer, Virginia is a faculty member at San Diego State University whose other literature works for young readers include The Jade Dragon and Paper Son.


Judy Hsu, TV Journalist

Judy Hsu

Judy Hsu is the Emmy award winning anchor of ABC7 Eyewitness News in Chicago. Judy returned to her hometown of Chicago in 2001 to join ABC as the weekday anchor of the station’s morning newscast. Judy’s roots in the Windy City take her back to elementary school after her family immigrated to Chicago from Taiwan when she was 11 years old.


Jean Kwok, Author

Jean Kwok

Jean Kwok is the New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Translation and Mambo in Chinatown. After immigrating from Hong Kong, Jean worked in a Chinatown clothing factory for much of her childhood before earning degrees from Harvard and Columbia. Her work has been published in 18 countries and taught in universities, colleges and high schools across the world.


Matt Sheehan, Journalist

Matt Sheehan

Matt Sheehan is a former China correspondent for The Huffington Post and The WorldPost. He lived in Xi’an and Beijing for almost five years, learning about China through the lives of the people he met. After returning to the United States, Matt started the Chinafornia Newsletter, a weekly digest of news, events and jobs connecting the Golden State and the Middle Kingdom.


Curtis Chin, Filmmaker

Curtis Chin

Filmmaker Curtis Chin gained recognition for his first film, Vincent Who?, which explored the 1982 Vincent Chin murder in Detroit. As a community activist, he co-founded the Asian American Writers Workshop and Asian Pacific Americans for Progress. Curtis’ latest film, Tested, follows students who battle to gain coveted seats in New York’s top high schools.


One Response

  1. For us it will be lots of cleaning, cooking and decorating, then a reunion dinner with chicken, a steamed fish (of course!), noodles and a dried oyster casserole. Red envelopes for the little guy and lots of story telling. I’m hoping we’ll make it to the Exclusion / Inclusion exhibit at the CHSA during the holiday period. ~Wes