Chinese New Year, heralding the Year of the Dog, is a two-week celebration, starting Friday running until March 2.

Because Chinese New Year is based upon the lunar calendar, the dates vary. It's a 12-year cycle with different animals representing each year. Each cycle begins with the rat because, according to mythology, the wily rat outsmarted the other animals, including the horse and the rabbit to win a race becoming No. 1. The end of the cycle is known as the Year of the Pig, who earned last place by taking a nap halfway through the race.

The dog, this year's animal, is the 11th of the cycle. Real canines are loyal, friendly and kind as well as honest, easygoing and helpful to others. And as anyone who has ever spent time reading the zodiacs frequently found on placemats in Chinese restaurants knows, it's believed that people exhibit the traits of the animal year in which they are born.

Like all good holidays, it’s about family and friends and food.

Tammy Pham, executive chef/co-owner of Asparagus in Merrillville and Siam Marina in Tinley Park, has created a special menu the restaurants will be presenting in conjunction with Chinese New Year.

“Many of these dishes I remember from my childhood,” said Pham, who with CEO Sam Chung, owns and operates both restaurants. “They were prepared by my grandmother through the year as well as for our family New Year's celebration, especially the To-Die-for-Pork Shank dish. Every house in Vietnam had this dish, but more often they used pork belly and pork shoulder.”

Pham also is presenting a traditional Asian Saffron Shrimp — shrimp in tempura batter with saffron, then crispy fried and served with sweet and sour ginger sauce. The Chinese New Year menu also includes salmon sautéed in a black pepper caramel sauce with sugar cane, served with bok choy and green beans, which Pham describes as a tradition Vietnamese dish.

“Back then, we didn't have salmon, so the sugar cane clay pot dish was made with catfish or mackerel,” she said, explaining how she’s adapted the dishes she’s serving for the New Year celebration. “We loved having roast duck, which is a favorite all over Asia, but the traditional way of preparing duck left it too dry, so I innovated with the Duck Confit to make the meat more flavorful and juicy. We've added a traditional Asian dessert offering, too.”

Music and dance performances also are integral during a Chinese New Year. Here’s a list of happenings:

Special Chinese New Year Eve menu served all day

Feb. 16 to 18

Asparagus Restaurant, 7876 Broadway, Merrillville, (219)794-0000,; and Siam Marina, 16846 Oak Park Ave., Tinley Park, (708) 407-8825,

DePaul 2018 Chinese New Year Gala

6 to 9 p.m., Feb. 16

DePaul University — Lincoln Park Student Center, 2250 N. Sheffield Ave., Room 120 A/B, Chicago,

Presented by the DePaul Chinese Studies Program, the 10th annual celebration is kid-friendly and includes a buffet dinner, New Year Remarks and Cultural Performances.

If you’re born in one of the years of the Dog — 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958, 1946, 1934 — provide your name when you check in and get the chance of winning a Year of the Dog gift. Ten winners are announced at the end of the event.

Chinese New Year Celebration

3 p.m., Feb 17

Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-294-3000,

A traditional Chinese opera celebrating the Year of the Dog and featuring brilliantly costumed acrobats performing in this family-oriented musical event. A preconcert performance program is free to all ticketholders. Approximate concert duration: 120 minutes, including intermission.

Northwest Indiana Chinese School

Student Library Alumni Hall, Purdue Northwest, Hammond Campus

3 p.m., Feb. 18 networking, 4 p.m. performance

Music and other traditional facets of New Year’s Eve celebration are part of this annual event.

2018 Chinese Lunar New Year Dinner Presented by Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce

6 to 9 p.m., Feb. 20

Cai Restaurant, 2100 S. Archer Ave., 2F, Chicago,

The traditional Lion Dance, a U.S. Postal Service Year of the Dog Stamp Dedication ceremony and 12-course dinner with classic Chinese New Year’s Eve dishes are part of this Chinese Lunar New Year of the Dog celebration. Dress code: Wear Chinese-inspired clothing or something red. Discounted parking will be available at Chinatown parking lots with validation ($2 for 5 hours).

Lunar New Year Parade

1 p.m. Feb. 25

Chicago’s Chinatown, (312) 326-5320,

Bands, colorful floats, traditional lion dances and a special appearance by Ronald McDonald are all part of this annual parade, which kicks off at 24th Street and Wentworth Avenue.