VOLUME 28 NO. 6 | JANUARY 31 - FEBRUARY 6, 2009

Celebration for year of the ox moves to new location

Last updated 1-29-09 at 12:18 p.m.

By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly

The annual observance of Lunar New Year is the perfect opportunity to mark a new start by holding grand and loud celebrations. For the past several years, observances in Seattle have had to be somewhat compact in order to fit inside Union Station.

The Year of the Ox — or Chinese year 4707 — began on Jan. 26, and it ushered in a new and much larger districtwide celebration.

The 2009 Lunar New Year Celebration will be moved outdoors for the first time, to the International District’s more spacious and centrally located Hing Hay Park; the free, five-hour event will be held on Jan. 31, starting at 11 a.m.

This year’s celebration features colorful lion and dragon dances, Japanese taiko drumming by Kaze Daiko and Northwest Taiko, and a drill team performance by Filipino Youth Activities.

“We’re using King Street as our stage,” said Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area (CIDBIA) marketing assistant Mish Lin.

Along with other organizers, she wants to attract more people, especially ID business owners, to this year’s event. “We’re expecting 5,000 people,” said Maribeth Ellis, CIDBIA’s executive director. In the past, Union Station’s maximum capacity of 500 people limited the number of people allowed to attend the event.

Lin hopes that this year’s celebration — her first — draws as many people as possible. She and others began planning the event last October and followed up with ID business owners a month later.

“We wanted it to be more family-oriented,” she said. “This is more like a family event because Lunar New Year is about gathering together.”

As a symbol of good luck, “Kids get red envelopes from their elders, from their parents, or grandparents,” she adds. “That’s the time when you earn the most. For little kids, they’re always excited about it.”

A Cultural Activities Pavilion at Hing Hay Park will serve as the first stop for the public, especially for children interested in face painting.

Lin said, “On the day when they come in to our event, they can walk into the Cultural Pavilion and pick up a program guide that tells them what’s going on in the district. If they happen to be here and they want to grab lunch or dinner or just buy little things, they can walk around the district and get to know the businesses.”

The pavilion will also serve as an education center, offering Chinese calligraphy and a photo booth for people dressed in different Asian cultural outfits. Lin said, “We want to educate people about what Lunar New Year is, not just have an event with performances and vendors inside a closed space.”

About 30 ID businesses — mostly restaurants, retail stores, and the Wing Luke Asian Museum — will participate in the Lunar New Year Celebration. The businesses will be identified by a red ox symbol in event maps as well as on sidewalk A-signs. “We’re not having any vendors this year because the businesses (in the district) are the vendors,” she said.

“I think that’s our goal,” Lin pointed out. “We hope to bring Lunar New Year to the community, and hopefully everybody will start getting used to having Lunar New Year Celebrations every year.”

“When we talk about Lunar New Year, we talk about it like it’s Christmas, how people celebrate Christmas here. They put up Christmas lights, they decorate the tree and things for kids, and they have traditions like exchanging gifts,” said Lin.

“I think Lunar New Year is just as important as Christmas.”

For more information about the Lunar New Year Celebration, visit www.cidbia.org/events. Northwest Asian Weekly will be giving out souvenirs at the event. Visit us!


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