Celebrating the Lunar New Year: The Year of the Dog

People across the United States and around the world will come together this month to celebrate the Lunar New Year with fireworks, parades and lanterns. Americans also will be able to commemorate the holiday each time they mail a letter, with a new postage stamp dedicated to the Year of the Dog.

The dog is one of 12 signs in the Chinese zodiac and is a symbol of loyalty and honesty.

The holiday begins with the first new moon of the lunar calendar, which can be anytime from mid-January to mid-February, depending on the year. This year it begins February 16.

Colorful postage stamp with winding bamboo, commemorating the Year of the Dog (© 2018 USPS)
(© 2018 USPS)

This year’s stamp features the image of lucky bamboo tied with a red ribbon, along with a red paper bearing the Chinese character fu, symbolizing good fortune, which is a commonly used decoration during the Lunar New Year, as well as a cut-out design of a dog.

The U.S. Postal Service has been releasing Lunar New Year stamps since 1992, when it began a 12-year series featuring each of the animals associated with the lunar calendar. The most recent series, which focuses on holiday traditions, began in 2008 and is illustrated by Asian-American artist Kam Mak. Mak immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong when he was a child and now lives in New York.

Each stamp includes elements of the previous series of Lunar New Year stamps. When designing a new concept for the stamps, Mak focused on many elements of the holiday that he grew up with, including the papier-mâché lion on the 2007 stamp and the red lanterns seen in the 2009 stamp.

“Today’s event is important, not only because it’s our first stamp dedication of the new calendar year, but also because it gives the Postal Service a chance to reinforce our commitment to celebrate America’s great diversity through our stamps,” said Larry Muñoz, acting vice president for Pacific Area operations, who dedicated the stamp at a release ceremony in Hawaii.

Young Chinese women in colorful garb dancing onstage (Shutterstock)

Americans celebrate the Lunar New Year in various ways, including events at world-renowned art galleries:

  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York plans performances, interactive gallery activities and artist-led workshops.
  • San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum will feature professionally trained performers called the Red Panda Acrobats. Oliver Chin, a Chinese-American author whose book series Tales from the Chinese Zodiac focuses on each lunar year, will be on hand to share his stories and talk about the Year of the Dog characteristics.
  • And at the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washingtonians will get the chance to write a Lunar New Year greeting card to Bao Bao, the giant panda who was born in the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington and now lives in the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Sichuan province.

This article was written by freelance writer Maeve Allsup.