12/03/2004 at 01:00 AM EST
For Kelly Hu, Chinese New Year brings back memories of her grandmother's house. "The family would get together for a giant feast, and all the kids would be outside with sparklers and fireworks," says Hu, 36, who grew up in Hawaii. One favorite New Year's celebration was a party in L.A. for hundreds of relatives and friends, where she served lychee martinis and maintained traditions with a modern twist.
Hu forgoes the Chinese custom of cleaning the house before the festival starts on the first day of the new moon in the lunar new year, but her mom still gives her lai-see, a bright-red envelope of money that is handed out to children and single adults for luck. And Hu still loves watching the lion and dragon dances. Accompanied by fireworks and loud music, the dances are said to repel evil spirits.
Mostly, though, Hu's celebrations are "all about the food," such as long noodles (for long life) and snails. "The feast symbolizes having food on your table all year long," she says. "I feel like it's my responsibility to celebrate Chinese New Year every year so I can introduce more and more people to it."