Celebrating Chinese New Year in Malibu

The year of the sheep (or goat, depending on who you ask) is almost here, as the Chinese New Year arrives on Thursday, Feb. 19.

Though L.A.’s Chinatown is a long trek for those in Malibu, residents might be interested in celebrating locally at Kristy’s Malibu. This year marks the restaurant’s third year celebrating the Chinese New Year.

“We thought we were just going to do it once [in 2013],” said owner Greg Bashant. However, after hearing locals ask about it the next year, he and his wife decided to keep the tradition alive in Malibu. 

Legend has it that the Chinese New Year, also called the Lunar New Year, began more than 3,000 years ago with a monster known as Nian. There are many versions of the tale, one of them being Nian supposedly had a lion’s head and a bull’s body, and lived roaming the mountains. He descended from the mountains on the first day of each year and terrorized villagers for food. He ate grains, livestock and even humans who got in his way. Villagers banded together against Nian by using Nian’s three fears — the color red, fire and noise — to scare him off the next year. They put red signs up on their front doors, made loud sounds by banging on drums and lit fireworks. 

Centuries later, the tale of Nian has evolved into an annual celebration in Chinese communities worldwide. Families and friends gather and hand out prized “red envelopes” filled with money or other goodies, dance to the beat of a drum and observe the highly anticipated lion dance. Some also use paper lanterns representing a way to scare off any looming Nian-type creatures. 

Chinese astrology designates a 12-year cycle for its lunar calendar, with each year representing a different animal, lucky numbers, even lucky colors. 2015 will mark the year of the sheep (or goat), with lucky numbers 2 and 7 (or any combination of those), the carnation and primrose as lucky flowers, and brown, red and purple as choice colors.

During the Kristy’s celebration, the restaurant puts its normal menu on hold and serves traditional Chinese fare for a night: appetizers, soups, noodle dishes, steamed fish and desserts.

“The lion dance is what most people come for,” Bashant said. “It’s usually a troupe of nine people. The troupe comes in [on the patio and inside the dining room]. It’s very loud, it’s very exciting, it’s very festive.”

Bashant and his wife Kristy decided to start celebrating in 2013 because it was something Kristy’s family celebrated every year while growing up in Hawaii. Though she is not Chinese, it became a special tradition.

“It was just popular to have a lion dance and celebrate every year,” her husband said.

This year, the restaurant is celebrating Chinese New Year for two nights — Wednesday, Feb. 18, and Thursday, Feb. 19. There are two seatings on Wednesday, first at 5:30 p.m. and next at 7:30 p.m. Only one seating is offered on Thursday, at 5:30 p.m. Guests should make reservations in advance by calling 310.457.2602. 

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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