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A Year Into the Pandemic, Some Lunar New Year Traditions Have Adapted

KATIE ANASTAS, HOST: Thousands of New Yorkers will celebrate the Lunar New Year tomorrow. For many in the city’s Asian communities, the holiday would normally be one of the biggest celebrations of the year… often with multiple generations of the family gathered under the same roof.

NICOLE MCNULTY, HOST: But as Megan Zerez reports, though this year’s celebration is different, it doesn't mean that business is all bad.

MEGAN ZEREZ, BYLINE: It’s the day before the Lunar New Year. Normally, this corner on Mott Street would be much, much louder. But with the annual Lunar New Year parade postponed, there are no cymbals or firecrackers. There still are, however, the last minute shoppers.

SANDY: It's definitely quieter but people still manage to come out, I guess, in the supermarkets because they still want to do some celebrations at home. But it is quieter.

ZEREZ: Sandy works nearby. Like many, she says she’ll be celebrating at home with just her family.

SANDY: We have to limit our social gatherings because of the whole COVID situation.

ZEREZ: But even without the big gatherings, businesses like tofu shop Fong On are still seeing a lot of action.

MARINA ENG: For us it’s a very important holiday. Yesterday was pretty busy at the store, because I think many people want to buy our products ahead of time.

ZEREZ: That’s Marina Eng. She and her husband Paul own the tofu shop, which has been in the Eng family for three generations. Joe Boo, who runs an Asian grocery delivery service, says he’s also seeing a rush for the holidays.

JOE BOO: We've been working around the clock - I'm talking like, 15 hour days, 14 hour days -just to keep up with demand.

ZEREZ: Earlier in the pandemic, Boo started a delivery site,, to help his dad adapt his vegetable wholesale business to a retail model.

BOO: Around March of last year, a lot of Asian supermarkets and restaurants had shut down. Now [my dad,] being a produce supplier of Asian veggies, basically his business had halted close to zero.

ZEREZ: Since then, the website has taken off. Now, with more people opting to stay home for their celebrations, Boo and his dad are almost busier than they were before the pandemic.

BOO: Yeah, there may not be family gatherings but that means that instead of one Napa cabbage for the family, it’s two orders.

ZEREZ: As you might have guessed, food is a huge part of many Lunar New Year celebrations.

BOO: Normally, my grand uncle, we’ll go to his place the day of and he literally is cooking nonstop in the kitchen. Like he'll, he'll make like serving sizes of like, enough for five people.

ZEREZ: This year, Boo says it’ll just be him, his parents and his girlfriend. But, he says, everyone will still be celebrating - and eating - even if it is separately. Megan Zerez, Uptown Radio.


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