Ringing in the Lunar New Year

Saturday’s home game will be the Kraken’s first-ever Lunar New Year Game with special player warmup jerseys, lion dances and more! — by Bob Condor

The first distinction to know about the Lunar New Year is it’s celebrated by Asian nations that at some point in their histories have followed a moon-oriented calendar, in contrast to the now widely adapted solar calendar based on the 365¼ days required for Earth to revolve once around the sun. Many, but not all, Asian and Asian American communities celebrate the lunar holiday, including Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Tibetan, Cambodian and Vietnamese communities.

This Sunday is the start of the next Lunar New Year. To celebrate the annum and acknowledge those communities, the Kraken is excited to announce Saturday’s home matchup against Colorado will be the first annual Lunar New Year Game. The night is part of the NHL and NHL Players’ Association “Hockey is for Everyone” (HIFE) initiative advocating for diversity and inclusion in the sport.

As part of the festivities at Saturday’s game, the Kraken will debut the first-ever Lunar New Year warmup jersey to be worn by Kraken players pre-game then auctioned off to benefit One Roof Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena.

The Kraken’s Lunar HIFE jersey joins six HIFE jerseys featured last season and back in the game rotation this year. It was designed by artist Monyee Chau, who identifies as Taiwanese and Chinese American. Chau grew up in the city’s International District, where they are part of the “flower, flower collective,” described as a “neighborhood arts ‘greenhouse’ where community stories flourish and creative expression is nurtured, cultivated and restored.”

Chau’s work is driven by their passion for exploring history, mythology and food: “Art and food are two universal languages that can bring people and communities together,” they said. The plan for the Lunar New Year jersey starts with reds and yellows prominent in Chinese culture that represent wealth and prosperity. Fans can also expect a “symbolic ribbon” as part of the lettering and numbering. The jersey features a Jade Rabbit to commemorate the coming Year of the Rabbit per Chinese culture.

While sharing a common holiday, different Asian countries and cultures mark Lunar New Year in varying ways. For Amy Chen Lozano and her family, it means weaving her Chinese heritage (she immigrated to the U.S. with her parents when she was four years old) with both Korean and Filipino cultures. She has a 14-year-old daughter (Andi) and 16-year-old son (Adam) from her first marriage to a Korean husband and now has a five-year-old son (Junior) with her second hubby, Ed, who is Filipino.

“A lot of the celebration is about heritage, first and foremost about family,” said Chen Lozano, whose youngest son, Junior, participates at the Kraken Community Iceplex in a 32-week learn-to-skate program created by the Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA) and One Roof Foundation. “It does tend to revolve around food, but the core of it is getting together with family.”

Traditionally, there is one get-together before the Lunar New Year arrives, to celebrate the passing of the former year. Then families with gather again to “appreciate the new year ahead,” said Chen Lozano. On the first day of the new year, it is proper to take the day off and not fight because it is unlucky to start the Lunar New Year “on the wrong foot.”

lunar new year familyAmy, Junior, and Ed

Chen Lozano says another tradition is “on New Year’s Day to start off eating something lucky.” In the case of her Chinese heritage from the southern province, that means dough dumplings (not meat-filled) made from glutenous rice flour because the stickiness represents “good tidings sticking to you.” Her family’s Lunar New Year table also includes Korean rice cake soup and Filipino pancit noodles. Long noodles are part of Chinese, Korean and Filipino cultures to signify long life at Lunar New Year and birthday meals.

In Vietnamese American households, families look forward to rice cakes filled with mung beans and steamed in banana leaves but first clean and decorate their homes for a fresh start. Both Vietnamese and Chinese cultures might put out red and gold decorations to symbolize health and wealth. Some Chinese American families share a tray of togetherness, with dried fruits and candies to signify the hope for many sweet family memories in the New Year.

Chen Lozano said her children enjoy the Lunar New Year food, especially the Korean breakfast of rice cakes (often sliced to look like coins and portend prosperity) and soup, plus Filipino roast pork with crispy skin later in the day. For his part, Chen Lozano’s husband says he favors Chinese dishes.

The meal conversation will no doubt include talk of the teenagers’ basketball seasons as part of the Seattle Chinese Athletic Association, for which Chen Lozano is treasurer and in which she played hoops herself growing up in the city. But five-year-old Junior is likely to jump in to enthusiastically talk about his skating, which Chen Lozano says has improved dramatically in the early weeks of the program.

children from rewa program skating on iceReWa x One Roof Foundation Learn-to-Skate Program

“I am so impressed with the Kraken and One Roof Foundation presenting a Lunar New Year game,” said Chen Lozano, “and for starting the ReWA program [which annually welcomes 60 school kids from ReWA early childhood centers in Lake City, Beacon Hill and Rainier Valley].  

“A lot of these kids would not normally have the opportunity to skate. To have this additional level of exposure for kids [with parents working to make ends meet, especially in the restaurant industry] and to learn something like this. It’s amazing. I’m a first-generation immigrant. The only time I was exposed to roller skating or ice skating was on school field trips. This [32-week] partnership is so valuable to the families and kids who participate in this program.”

Before puck drop at Saturday’s game, fans can watch Lion Dance performances by the Mak Fai Kung Fu Dragon & Lion Dance Association, both inside and outside the Alaska Atrium. Lion Dance troupes play an important role in scaring away bad energy and bad luck from the past year, plus bless the neighborhood and business for the new year.  

For fans who can’t make Saturday’s game, the Wing Luke Museum is hosting its annual Lunar New Year Fair Jan. 28 with Kraken youth hockey player development coach David Kyu-Ho Min joining as a lion feeder during the dance ceremony. For kids, Wing Luke has posted an engaging 2023 Year of the Rabbit coloring sheet on its website which can be exchanged for reduced museum admission. You can also attend Chinatown-International District’s Lunar New Year celebration Feb. 4 and/or visit the Seattle Art Museum’s celebrations on the same day.