Mulan's Lunar New Year at Disney California Adventure

by Todd Pickering, contributing writer

The Lunar New Year is upon us, and Mulan and Mushu are ready to ring in the Year of the Dog. If you are looking for a comprehensive understanding of this holiday, you are barking up the right tree. It can be ruff understanding the lunar nature of Chinese New Year so let's paws for a moment and have a quick primer.

4716 is the Year of the Dog

A fond farewell to the Year of the Rooster and welcome the Year of the Dog. Photo by Todd Pickering.

Wait! What? That is correct, the Chinese years do not follow the current Gregorian Calendar as they are much older and on a lunar cycle rather than a solar one. Therefore the first day of the New Year can be as early as January 21 or as late as February 20. This year is a rather late date heralding in the Year of the Dog on February 16. This date is calculated by using the first day of the new moon at the end of the existing year. The celebration traditionally lasts 15 days ending in the Lantern Festival, which is on March 2 this year.

Instead of the animals representing a month like the Western zodiac, the Chinese Zodiac animals occupy an entire year. The story goes that the Jade Emperor called thirteen animals for a great race to place them in order for the years. The Rat rode on the back of the Ox and jumped off at the finish line to be the first animal. The Pig stopped for a snack and then took a nap so he/she came in last. The hCat drowned in the river during the race, so there are only twelve signs. Each sign appears every twelve years and is connected to a different element: fire, water, earth, metal, and wood. The Dog is the eleventh animal, and this is the year of the Earth Dog. He/she is careful, practical, and grounded. On one's 60th birthday, the cycle of animal and element repeats itself, and it is a special day indeed. Now that we are in the know, let's discuss Mulan's Lunar New Year...

Mulan's Lunar New Year Procession Runs from January 26 through February 18

Beautiful costumes and rhythmic dancing are part of the Lunar New Year Celebration. Photo by Todd Pickering.

Disneyland Resort is celebrating Lunar New Year for three weeks this year. For those of you who have seen ¡Viva Navidad! for the Christmas holiday, it follows the same format. The Disney web page states that: "A sea of performers flow gracefully throughout the streets." Last year, for the Year of the Rooster, the procession came out near the Goofy Sky School Roller Coaster with performers on the street corridor. (Fun tip: if you get on the Jumpin' Jellyfish a few minutes before this begins, watching from above is magical, and there is usually a spot near that attraction to finish watching the celebration.

Mulan and Mushu look on as the celebration builds. Photo by Todd Pickering.

Last year for the Year of the Rooster, the dancers were colorful and beautiful and did indeed "flow gracefully." Mulan and Mushu look on as the dancers' beautiful costumes and ribbons swirl and flow in time to the traditional music and rhythmic drums. The kids will be sure to enjoy the dragon the most as it chases a ball that symbolizes the "Pearl of Wisdom." This spectacle is exciting and full of energy. The Year of the Dragon is the most coveted but he/she is always present every year whatever animal is being represented.

The dragon is always the center of celebration during the Lunar New Year. Photo by Todd Pickering.

There are also crafts and plenty of fun signs explaining the celebration. For instance, well wishes for the New Year are written on paper and placed in brightly colored, red envelopes. This area is back towards the restaurant Paradise Garden Grill, which offers delicious Asian fusion cuisine this year such as japchae sweet potato noodles or beef pho noodle soup and mango puddding.

World of Color Features "Hurry Home"

It is well worth watching World of Color for the opening segment celebrating the Lunar New Year. Photo by Todd Pickering.

There is also a short presentation before the World of Color called "Hurry Home" about a little lantern trying to get to the Lantern Festival on time. The colors and lighting effects are more beautiful than the original production of World of Color, and by combining footage of Disney dogs, this makes a great show in lieu of the regular World of Color. It is original and entrancing, and it would be terrific to see even more holiday shorts before the full version of World of Color. However, for now, enjoy "Hurry Home" as it is well worth it. The Disney web site claims that it is "heartwarming," and that is quite an apt description of this fantastic add on to World of Color.

Will the Disney Dogs be Present?

It would be great fun this year to see Pluto, Goofy, Bolt, or Dug make an appearance to help celebrate the Lunar New Year. Are there any other dogs that Disney could use? Maybe have Cruella make an appearance or would that be inappropriate? I'm looking forward to seeing this year's celebration and wish you all, "Gung hay fat choy," which translates from Cantonese to "wishing you great happiness and prosperity."

The author and Pluto wish you all "gung hay fat choy" for the Year of the Dog. Photo by Tracey Pickering.