TL;DR–Lunar new year is on Feb. 16, go visit a temple that weekend and have some fun!
For me, to slap new beginnings together in January can feel very rushed. If I use the lunar calendar system and plan for the new year during that time, I would have more ample time to plan new things.
Lunar new year in the Buddhist SGV can be quite big. Some temples would be open late on new year’s eve to let devotees and guests make their wishes for the new year while families prepare a wide range of delicacies and rituals put away any of last year’s bad memories to make room for next year’s hopes. Some people plan trips to attend at least ten Buddhist and Taoist centers to do so, or even just to get the feeling of new years. I still know of at least one or two Taoist temples at the outskirts of Chinatown Los Angeles that stay open 24 hours! Some of the bigger temples will even have cultural events like lion dance, red envelope art, martial arts demos, etc. The one thing that all temples will do though is perform a ritual on one or two occasions: to observe the birth of Maitreya Buddha (the origin of this holiday I’ve yet to research), or to repent one’s negative actions from the previous year to “freshen up” for the new year by performing prostrations according to the 3,000 Buddha Repentance text. I know larger temples such as Dharma Seal Temple in Rosemead and Quan Yum Temple in Chinatown still recites this text, If you’re nearby during that time I encourage you to at least experience it. Of course, the icing on the cake, the food. Many specialized delicacies are prepared only during this time to observe the occassion. I personally also cook up a storm and sell some of my rice cakes as a mini fundraiser.
Reflecting back on the previous year, I feel that this road to chaplaincy seems more than just a road lined with 72 units of coursework, it became more of an internal battle of finding my own identity and finding my place in the community. So where is this place and this identity? I still can’t identify it. I’m not sure if I should be identifying it now because it seems likes one of those lifelong journey things. I connected with a wonderful group of classmates and seniors with similar aspirations, learned a great deal, and had so many experiences that would take me forever to describe. My biggest hope for the upcoming year is to maintain this level of energy, if not enhance it, to be able to love more and serve more. Of course, being in our current society having an abundance of materialistic elements is something I wouldn’t refuse. 😀
This year’s Lunar New Year is on Feb. 16. The evening before, and for at least a few days up to two weeks after there will be a wide variety of repentance rituals, cultural events and the like that everyone can enjoy at your local temple!