The Chinese New Year is here and Seattle families are ready to ring in the Year of the Dragon with a bang! This year, the Lunar New Year begins on Monday, January 23 and celebrations continue for 15-days. Here are five family-friendly ways to celebrate the Chinese New Year for 2012.

1. Lunar New Year Festival, Saturday, January 28, 2012
The largest celebration of the Chinese New Year is held in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District at Hing Hay Park. This free festival is an entire family-friendly day of fun to ring in the Year of the Dragon with dragon and lion dances, Taiko drumming, Chinese yo-yo games and so much more. Kids will love participating in the Children’s Costume Parade, where they can show off their traditional finest (begins at 1:30 pm). For more information about the festival and schedule visit the Chinatown-International District website at www.cidbia.org.

2. Lunar New Year Food Walk, Saturday, January 28, 2012
A fun part of the Lunar New Year Festival (above) is the Lunar New Year Food Walk. Put on your walking shoes and load the kids in the double stroller and follow the map around Seattle’s Chinatown-International District to the 20 restaurants serving $2 taste plates. You can find the map and details on each participating restaurant on the festival website – be sure to bring cash… and an empty tummy!

3. Lunar New Year Banquet, Thursday, January 26, 2012
Why not make the Lunar New Year into a fun date night out? The Lunar New Year Banquet, put on by The Greater Seattle Chinese Chamber of Commerce is held at China Harbor Restaurant on Lake Union at 6:00 pm and is a gigantic dinner and party in anticipation of the year to come. Tickets are $40 per person and available online and a portion of the ticket proceeds go to benefit youth leadership programs.

4. Cultures of China: Festival of Spring, Friday, February 3, 2012
An amazing celebration of the Chinese New Year, also known as the Festival of Spring, Cultures of China at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre is a special way to ring in the Year of the Dragon. It’s an evening filled with traditional music, dancing and singing – a way for your family to get into the true spirit of Chinese culture. The show begins at 7:30 pm, so families with younger families will have to brave the late hour, but we’re certain that it will be worth the cranky kids the next day! For tickets, visit the Seattle Theatre Group website.

5. Chinese New Year Celebration at Sponge, Saturday, February 4, 2012 (Seattle) and Sunday, February 12, 2012 (Bellevue)
One of the area’s premiere language schools, Sponge is having two Chinese New Year Celebrations – one in Seattle and one in Bellevue for Eastside families. Both go from 10:00 am to noon and are guaranteed to be family-friendly and a ton of fun! Seattle Chinese Community Drill Team will be preforming both days at the Seattle location. At the Bellevue location, kids can enjoy a wide array of crafts for all ages, and a mini-Mandarin class. For more information on how to RSVP for either location’s event, visit the Red Tricycle Seattle Event Calendar.

How is your family celebrating the Chinese New Year? Do you have any traditions or have you attended one of these great events in the past? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

— Katie Kavulla