'Good wishes, good luck': South Bay residents fulfill beloved family traditions for Lunar New Year

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Tuesday afternoon brought families, firecrackers and grave sites full of special offerings for the Lunar New Year.

At Oak Hill Cemetery in San Jose, families kept up with special traditions as they welcomed the Year of the Tiger.

"In our culture, you know, New Year's Day is when the family gathers together to go visit the ancestors," Phuong Nguyen shared.

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Nguyen and his extended family were visiting his father who died more than a decade ago. The group was lighting firecrackers, and explained the belief is the loud booms will bring good luck.

"We do it to, you know, to scare the bad spirits away," Nguyen told ABC7 News. "So that the good spirits can remain."

It's that deep symbolism that Gerrye Wong with the Chinese Historical and Cultural Project said makes these celebrations so meaningful.

"Everything signifies a part of what's going to happen to you in the New Year," she described.

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As she held up her tray of Eight Immortals, she explained, "The tangerine is gold, which means that they will be rich in the next year."

She pointed to each item. Candy, marking sweetness. Coconut, meaning togetherness. Of course, fortune cookies to signal good fortune.

Beyond the tray, she displayed bright red envelopes, given to those who are unmarried.

"When I give it to you, it means I'm bringing you good wishes, good luck," Wong said.

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Similar to New Year's Eve and July 4th celebrations, some residents on social media were critical of the use of illegal fireworks at the San Jose cemetery.

ABC7 News reached out to Oak Hill Cemetery about its policies, but didn't hear back.

However, family members taking part in the festivities addressed the issue.

"First off, I want to apologize for the inconvenience. The nuisance," Nguyen said. "It's gonna go away tomorrow or the next day. So, I appreciate everybody's patience and love."

He continued with a greeting. Nguyen said, "I wish everyone is happy, healthy. I think that's the most important thing."

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