Parades, Film Festivals, Food Deals: Here's How to Celebrate Lunar New Year in Chicago

Lunar New Year is here, and there are so many ways to celebrate in Chicago.

Chicago Lunar New Year Parade
Lunar New Year Parade | Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images
Lunar New Year Parade | Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Lunar New Year begins on Saturday, February 10, and the festivities in Chicago are already starting. The celebration fetes the arrival of spring and the first day of the new year for various Asian communities. In Chinese communities, you may hear it called the Spring Festival, while Seollal is the term for Korean New Year, and Tết is commonly used to refer to the Lunar New Year in Vietnam. Different cultures and communities have different ways of celebrating the Lunar New Year, and its timing varies from year to year because it’s marked by the first new moon of the lunisolar calendar rather than a fixed date. In Chinese, Korean, and Thai culture, this is the Year of the Dragon.

“I have great memories of Seollal, Korean New Year, growing up,” Beverly Kim, chef and owner of Parachute and Anelya tells Thrillist. “We would meet at my grandma’s apartment. My mom would make a large meal that we enjoyed after midnight service at church in Albany Park. It included dduk gook, a rice cake soup representing good luck and starting the New Year with a blank slate. Later we would bow in front of our elders to receive blessings and money for the New Year.”

Chicago’s Asian population is the fastest-growing ethnic group in Chicago, and there will be a number of Lunar New Year celebrations across the city and suburbs. Experience the vibrant diversity of Lunar New Year celebrations across communities and cultures and enjoy the perks of living in a big city by joining the festivities (the majority of which are free) and embracing the unique traditions that mark the start of a new beginning.

Sunda New Asian Chicago Food
Courtesy of Sunda New Asian Chicago

Food and Drink Events Celebrating Lunar New Year in Chicago

February 9–11
Avondale, Prices vary
For Lunar New Year weekend, Parachute will be serving dduk mandoo gook, a Korean rice cake dumpling soup, which is a traditional dished served for New Year’s. Chef Kim is serving her family’s recipe on the menu. “But we're taking it a step further and doing an 18-hour bone broth,” says Kim. “It's going to be more milky, more luxurious and rich than what I had growing up. It’s for the people like me who don’t have family close to go and share a bowl with or maybe they want to introduce this dish to someone they love. It’s very traditional.”

Through February 29
River North, Prices vary
Sunda New Asian Chicago is serving special Lunar New Year dishes now through February 29, 2024. There’s the seafood lo mein packed with crispy scallop, shrimp, pea pods, carrots, water chestnuts, and shiitake mushroom or the cumin lamb dumplings served with pickled mustard greens, ginger vinaigrette and chili crisp. An assortment of “Luck and Wealth” cookies and oranges is also on the menu for $8.88 (In Chinese, the number eight has the same sound as the word "发(fa)" which emphasizes prosperity or fortune, and 8.88 is considered a lucky number). For diners visiting the evening of Thursday, February 8, a celebratory Lion Dance is scheduled for 8 pm.

February 9–10
Various locations, Prices vary
For a more casual meal, head to Wow Bao. In honor of the Year of the Dragon, Chicago locations will be giving away traditional Hong Bao red envelopes with every purchase on February 9 and February 10. Envelopes will include coupons for freebies. And for those lucky to be born in the Year of the Dragon (1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, and 2024), the restaurant is offering a free meal up to $15 at any of their three locations on February 10, the start of Lunar New Year.

February 9–11
River North,Prices vary
If you’re looking to celebrate Seollal, the Korean Lunar New Year, then head to PERILLA. The Korean American restaurant is offering a holiday menu during dinner service on Friday, February 9 through Sunday, February 11. Dishes include bulgogi (marinated beef), ddukguk (rice cake soup), japchae (stir-fry glass noodles with veggies), and bindaedduk (savory mung bean pancakes).

Music Events Celebrating Lunar New Year in Chicago

February 7, 8 pm
Lincoln Square, $10 suggested
In anticipation of the holiday weekend, the Old Town School of Folk Music in Lincoln Square is hosting a free and intimate performance in celebration of Lunar New Year on Wednesday, February 7 at 8 pm. The concert will feature a blend of traditional and contemporary Chinese and Thai music and instruments as part of their World Music Wednesday series. Multi-instrumentalist Tzu-Tsen Wu, multi-percussionist Brent Roman, their duo, Ruan and Hide and special guest Chamni Sripraram are among the performers bringing the spirit of Lunar New Year to life. Make reservations in advance either online or by calling the box office at 773-728-6000. A $10 donation is suggested.

February 10, 3 pm
Theater for Music and Dance, Free
The Chicago Philharmonic’s Chinese New Year concert and celebration at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance is one of the city’s most popular Lunar New Year events. Expect a full orchestra with pipa virtuoso Yang Wei to perform Butterfly Lovers Concerto, one of China's most renowned classical compositions based on the folktale of two star-crossed lovers, and Crouching Tiger Cello Concerto. The event takes place on Saturday, February 10 at 3 pm. The event is free but registration is required.

February 11, 2 pm
Preston Bradley Hall, Free
Head to the Cultural Center’s Preston Bradley Hall on Sunday, February 11 for the world premiere of Lei-Liang’s Mongolian Suite for Violin performed by violinist Rabia Brooke. Liang, a Chinese composer, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in music. Liang and Brooke will sit down for a Q&A to discuss the commissioning and composition process prior to the concert. The afternoon concert will also feature a performance by Tuvergen Band, a Mongolian folk-fusion group. The event is free and presented by Choose Chicago and Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

Museums Celebrating Lunar New Year in Chicago

February 8
Downtown, Free
If you’re visiting the Field Museum on Thursday, February 8, expect a number of performances from the Chicago Chinese Cultural Center’s Lion Dance team, the award-winning dance troupe Hao Dance, the Chicago Korean Dance Company and gravity-defying tricks from the Chinese Yo-Yo school. The Grainger Science Hub will also be hosting Chinese calligraphy demonstrations during this time and Tuvergen Band, the Mongolian folk-fusion group, will also be performing. The festivities begin at 11:30 am and end at 1:30 pm. This event is free, but basic admission to the Field Museum is required.

Fashion Outlets of Chicago Lunar New Year Celebration | Photo Courtesy of Fashion Outlets of Chicago

Indoor Family Events Celebrating Lunar New Year in Chicago

February 10, 1 pm
Navy Pier, Free
Lunar New Year in Chicago falls during one of the city’s most volatile weather-related months and Navy Pier is a sanctuary for a day of activities where families can roam around. Thanks to Navy Pier’s Global Connections series, visitors have free access to nearly five hours of activities on Saturday, February 10 from 1–5 pm. The Aon Grand Ballroom will be transformed into a family-friendly, interactive playground designed to celebrate the Year of the Dragon. The Thai Cultural Arts Center, Philippine American Cultural Foundation and K-Pop dance crew RevX are among the event performers.

Local food vendors from boba shop Amber Agave, Filipino sweet treats shop Masiramon Chicago, dim sum restaurant New Furama, and Veloria Coffee will be on-site alongside Asian-owned small business retailers like Chicago for Keeps, Cobbler Lane Designs, The Chinese Fine Arts Society, and Science Girls.

Parade Events Celebrating Lunar New Year in Chicago

February 17, 1 pm
Uptown, Free
For more than 40 years the Uptown neighborhood has come together to host its Lunar New Year parade in conjunction with over 20 local businesses and community leaders on Argyle. The parade kicks off at 1 pm on Saturday, February 17 at Argyle & Winthrop, but a day full of activities (for children, seniors and everything in between) begins at 10 am and ends at 4 pm. Here’s a full list of activities. Duck into Uni Uni after for a snack of bubble tea and popcorn chicken.

February 18, 1 pm
Chinatown, Free
For a Chinese-centric experience, head to Chinatown, where the Lunar New Year parade begins at 1 pm at the intersection of 24th Street and Wentworth Avenue on Sunday, February 18. The parade will feature traditional lion and dragon dancers, marching bands and colorful floats. Warm up with some dim sum post-parade at Imperial, a favorite of Chinatown locals.

Film Events Celebrating Lunar New Year in Chicago

February 15 and February 17
Various locations, Free
Asian Pop-Up Cinema founded by Sophia Wong Boccio (王曉菲) is a non-competitive film festival designed to highlight Asian culture. The local non-profit bridging east and west cultures through film, is hosting two free screenings in celebration of Lunar New Year. The first is The Monk and the Gun, a Bhutan film on its shift to a democracy, held on Thursday, February 15 at 6:15 pm at the Gene Siskel Film Center. The second is the Chinese martial arts film 100 Yards, with a pre-show lion dance performed by Master P.C. Leung & Team on Saturday February 17 at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Lunar New Year Events in the Chicago Suburbs

Fashion Outlets of Chicago
February 10, 1 pm
Rosemont, Free
Fashion Outlets of Chicago is hosting a Lunar New Year kickoff event at its Food Court on Saturday, February 10 beginning at 1 pm. The free “Year of the Dragon" celebration will feature a variety of games and activities for guests including lantern making, Chinese calligraphy, and a Chopstick challenge. Special cultural performances presented by the Huaxing Arts Group featuring Chinese dance, Kung Fu, and Chinese yo-yo will take place from 2–2:30 pm with activities resuming after and running until 3:30 pm. For shoppers looking to score some holiday deals, head to the concierge services on Level One, near Saks OFF 5TH, to receive a special Red Envelope featuring a free Saving Pass and special Lunar New Year offers from participating retailers between February 10–25, 2024.

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Ximena N. Beltran Quan Kiu is a Thrillist contributor and communications specialist based in Chicago.