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Celebrating the Year of the Monkey at Universal Studios

Growing up, Lunar New Year (Tet in Vietnamese) was a big deal in my household.  We would clean as much as we could to have the house in order for the new year.  My mom would cook up a huge feast, my family would offer it to our ancestors, then we would all have a big lunch and dinner.  It was almost a weeklong event as we’d normally spend a day or two in Westminster enjoying the festivals and spent several evenings visiting friends and family to wish them a prosperous year.   Of course, one of the highlights as a kid in doing all of this was collecting li xi – those little red envelopes holding “lucky money” for the new year.

As we got older, however, things kind of changed.  My parents definitely still prepare a feast for our ancestors, but besides that, it’s become a very simple affair.  My parents still go out and see their friends, and we still spend time together as a family but that’s pretty much where it ends.
Now that we have Dominic, it’s almost like things are coming full circle.  I’ve had to think of how I want to share this occasion with him.  With him being half Vietnamese, I’ve had to make decisions on what I want to be sure to instill of his Vietnamese culture.  I definitely didn’t want to discard it completely and consider him simply American by following only American traditions.  There is so much that makes him, him – and I don’t ever want him to forget it.  In the bigger picture, having such a meaningful background that makes you proud to be here is a lot of what has to do with being an American.
I have some cousins I grew up with and a handful of Vietnamese friends I’ve made along the way, and luckily a few of them have little ones too.  We’re hoping to spend some time together this week and build a new tradition for them to appreciate this time. Funny enough, almost all of the little ones are half-Vietnamese.  The melting pot is in full force!  I’m excited to see what their generation will be like with a whole new sense of diversity – but that’s a whole ‘nother topic.  I digress, I’m hoping once they’re a little older that we could all go to a Tet festival like old times. 🙂
Anyway, I just knew we had to do something, and with Tristan being gone for the weekend, we had to get a little creative.  I found out Universal Studios was going to have a Lunar New Year event which sparked my interest since we still had 2 more visits on our tickets.  We had bought the 3-day pass in November when we went for a little anniversary day trip, and we had yet to use it since then. If you’ve been following my blog, D’s favorite book lately has been a book featuring Curious George.  Guess what?  It’s the Year of the Monkey, and Curious George was going to be at the Lunar New Year event to help ring in the new year.  We had to go!


The event takes place in the Universal Plaza, close to the entrance of the park.  It’s a giant circular space that looks like where people would typically buy food and sit to eat.  The area was decorated beautifully with plenty of cherry blossoms and red lanterns.  When we walked towards it, T had said “Well, this is pretty cool!” 🙂
They had cherry blossom trees set up to be wishing trees where we got to write our wishes for the new year on red paper and hang them up.  It was fun and humbling reading some of these.  Sometimes it’s little activities like these that really put life into perspective (some wishing for health of family members, etc – I didn’t take photos of any that seemed too personal).



This was pretty amusing – a Mandarin speaking Megatron came out every few hours and talked with the audience!  He spoke purely in Mandarin, so I’m not sure what he was saying, but I know the English speaking ones by the Transformers ride are hilarious.

My favorite part was when Curious George came out, and Dominic gave this little smirk!  It was a look of “Hey! He looks familiar!”  When we went to the line, Dominic couldn’t stop staring at him.  It was the sweetest thing.  I was so worried he was going to get scared, but he was pretty happy to see his favorite book character come to life.


He was so amused by Curious George’s hands and fur.  A few moments after that last shot was taken though, he got a little scared – almost like he thought we were going to leave him.  Haha.
Okay, I lied.  Here’s my favorite part.  Dominic has been taking some tiny “first steps” at home, but he hasn’t gotten to walking yet.  Well, around the Universal Plaza were banners for each of the Chinese Zodiac signs, so we looked for Dominic’s – Year of the Horse.  We had him stand in front of it to take a picture, and he suddenly decided he was going to start walking!  He took 3 big steps, and although we don’t have it on video, I got this adorable shot of a wobbly step.  Tristan was so proud of him, he swooped him up and gave him a big smoocharoo.  D was all smiles.



We didn’t go on any rides at the park which was totally fine considering the visit was practically free, but we did do a few other things that we knew Dominic would enjoy.  First – meet the minions!
I posted on IG a while back when I first introduced Dominic to a stuffed minion.  He squealed, then crawled away to do other things.  I don’t blame him, really.  Minions look funny (in an adorable way)!  Well, he gave similar reactions at the life-size minions, and it. was. PRICELESS.  I love my happy boy!  He is so fun-loving and so curious.




The only other thing we did was check out the Animal Actors show.  He had fun pointing out the dog and seeing birds fly around.  He was also pretty amused when the audience would clap after every act, like what just happened? He’d look around like I know how to do that. then, he’d start clapping after everyone stopped.  It was pretty adorable.  It’s interesting to think that all of these little social norms are learned — and can be learned at such a young age.


As of today, Dominic has already received his first 2 li xi!  He is a lucky kid.  Still thinking of what he should get with this money, but if anything, it can always help him pay for college. Haha.

From our family to yours, may your year be filled with joy, health, peace, and prosperity.  Hello, Year of the Monkey!

If you’re interested in attending this event at Universal Studios, it runs until February 14.
Universal Studios | 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608
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