A New Tide: Lunar New Year Celebration

By New England Aquarium on Monday, February 12, 2024

See caption below
A lion dance troupe performs at the New England Aquarium for a Fierce Urgency of Now festival event Photo: Caitlin Cunningham

The influence of the moon on marine life, guiding everything from the spawning of corals to the migration patterns of fish and the activity levels of sharks, is a remarkable natural phenomenon that resembles the human tradition of marking time through solar and lunar cycles. This connection underscores a fascination with the universe and deep reverence for the cycles that govern our natural world and cultural practices.

One of these traditions is the celebration of the Lunar New Year. Traditionally celebrated in China, Vietnam, and other Asian countries but recognized across the world by many people in the Asian diaspora, Lunar New Year begins with the lunar calendar’s first new moon and ends 15 days later on the first full moon.

This year, the Lunar New Year will be celebrated from February 10–24 and marks the start of the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese zodiac, which symbolizes power, good fortune, and strength. The celebrations in Boston and its first-time designation as a city holiday in 2023 reflect a deep appreciation for cultural diversity and the Asian community’s vibrant role in the city’s fabric, especially within neighborhoods like Chinatown.

The Aquarium’s membership in the Coalition for an Inclusive and Resilient Waterfront (CRIW), alongside partners such as Chinatown Main Street, highlights a commitment to integrating cultural inclusivity, community engagement, and waterfront access. Through our partnership with CRIW, the Aquarium works to advance a vision for a waterfront that is accessible, resilient, and reflective of Boston’s diverse communities, as illustrated in the new photo exhibit Voices of the Waterfront.

The Lunar New Year is also celebrated with enthusiasm within our Aquarium community. Here, Donor Relations Manager Margaret Phan—who is also a member of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council—shares her thoughts on what the Lunar New Year signifies, the essence of the Year of the Dragon, how she personally celebrates, and more.

What does Lunar New Year mean to you?

Manager of Donor Relations Margaret Phan headshot
Manager of Donor Relations Margaret Phan Photo: Vanessa Kahn

Lunar New Year, for me, signifies the beginning of new energy, new goals, and just an overall new start. It’s pretty identical to traditional New Year’s, but there’s a deeper connection to renewed luck and fortune that makes Lunar New Year feel more ambitious and exciting. We do so much prep work to start off on the right foot, and it just brings this connected sense of excitement among the community. We do such huge celebrations to welcome in good fortune that it’s always an exciting time.

What is the significance of the Year of the Dragon?

I think the Dragon symbolizes a strong personality of ambition, character, and charisma, so people tend to associate the year with those traits and believe that it’s one of the best zodiacs. In general, or so I’ve been told, the Year of the Dragon is auspicious overall because of that. It’s a sign of good luck that everyone can be a part of.

How will you be celebrating?

My family likes to do big celebrations—we cook tons of food and decorate the house, and everyone takes time out of their busy lives to stop by and celebrate. My cousins also host a big party every year at a restaurant where we invite our friends and family, hire lion dancers, and enjoy a feast of food. It’s a great time to just have fun and look forward to a new year with everyone in our community. My partner and I also made bánh tét, a Vietnamese savory roll made from glutinous rice with a mung bean and pork filling, which then gets rolled into a banana leaf and boiled. It’s an incredibly tedious process, but bánh tét is a quintessential dish for Lunar New Year, and it was humbling to make it.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Lunar New Year traditions are different for every culture, but there are many similar components. At the root of it all, we look at it as an opportunity for us to bring in new fortune and new luck, spend time with your family, remember your ancestors, and share in your hopes for the future together.


Happy Lunar New Year to all who celebrate as we share our hope for a future where Boston’s residents—from every neighborhood—enjoy a publicly accessible, resilient, and inclusive waterfront.

Learn more about the New England Aquarium’s work to support a Downtown Waterfront for All.


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