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Lutherans & Lunar New Year

新年快樂 (Sun Nin Fai Lok) - Happy New Year! 恭喜發財 (Gung Hay Fat Choy) – wishing you prosperity and joy! Today, February 1st, marks the Lunar New Year and beginning of a two-week long celebration as our many of our siblings of Asian heritage close out 2021 and welcome 2022. We spoke with Marisa Louie Lee and David Lam and Kimberly Hamilton-Lam, members of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco, about this holiday and how their Chinese American families gather and celebrate, and the connection the Lunar New Year has to their Lutheran faith.

What is the Lunar New Year?

The Lunar New Year is a time for individuals to conclude the year behind them and open the new year ahead. Lunar New Year follows the Lunar Calendar, which was meant to mirror the cyclical season of the farmland, as the majority of people in China relied on farming for their livelihood. Thus, all major holidays center around the farm workers and agriculture industry. When the Lunar New Year came each year, it was historically a time where farm workers took a rest from being in the fields and spent time with loved ones welcoming in the new year.

The Lunar Calendar is represented by a different animal each year, with 12 animals total, that represents the year ahead. 2022 will be the year of the Water Tiger - representing strength and action, being known to ward-off evils.

There is much preparation that goes into the Lunar New Year! Checkbooks are balanced, houses are deep-cleaned, special foods must be purchased and prepared, fresh flowers put on display in the home, and red envelopes to be filled. When the Lunar New Year comes, the festivities begin! Much of the season is devoted to spending time with close and distant relatives, exchanging gifts, and serving “lucky” foods - such as fish, dumplings, peanuts, and dates. The Lunar New Year is also a time when many honor ancestors who have passed away and pay respect to those who came before them.

How do Marisa Louie Lee and her family celebrate the Lunar New Year?

Marisa grew up in the city of San Francisco with the rich history of Lunar New Year celebrations on her doorstep. She attended a Lutheran school growing up and later joined St. Mark’s, who has since seen her through major milestones of her adult life, like the birth and baptisms o