Happy Lunar New Year

February 2, 2016
Happy Lunar New Year

CLE Celebrates the Year of the Monkey

Lexi Hotchkiss

View the 2017 version of this article here

The year 2016 might be a lot of things: the year of the driverless car, the year of virtual reality headsets and the year of the presidential candidate.

But according to the traditional Chinese zodiac, this is the 4,714th Year of the Monkey. And, it all kicks off during the Lunar New Year (aka the Chinese New Year) on Monday, Feb. 8.

“The Lunar New Year is like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s all wrapped up in one. We have family reunions, parties, fireworks and gift giving,” says Lisa Wong, president of the Organization of Chinese Americans [OCA] of Greater Cleveland, which provides civic engagement and cultural education on behalf of Cleveland’s burgeoning Asian-Pacific population.

While the heart of this holiday focuses on family togetherness, the Lunar New Year is wrapped in centuries-old traditions. Wear red because it’s lucky. Set off firecrackers to scare evil spirits. Give children red envelopes filled with money for prosperity. Buy new clothes to encourage renewal.

Want to try out these unique ways to merrymake during the Lunar New Year? With a flourishing Asian population and a neighborhood rich with Asian-Pacific diversity (Asia Town), Cleveland’s the place to be.

OCA Greater Cleveland compiled a list of more than 40 Lunar New Year celebrations throughout the region. Check it out here. Or, immerse yourself in one of these experiences:

1. Lion Dance Performances
Those who celebrate the Lunar New Year know there’s one activity you've just got to see: the dance of the lion.

Performed by two people in a large lion costume with an accompanied band of cymbals and drums, the dance is done to symbolically scare away evil spirits. The lion sports a giant papier mâché head and blinking eyes adorned with brightly colored trinkets, fur, glitter and mirrors.

“The lion dance is very special,” Wong says. “If you feed the lion money, it’s supposed to bring you good luck to the rest of the year.”

In Cleveland, the Kwan Family Lion Dance group performs the dance year-round. But, during the Lunar New Year, the group is stacked with more than 20 scheduled appearances – many of which help to completely book area restaurants.

Score the opportunity to see the Kwan Family Lion Dance in person by heading to a public performance at Asia Town Center on Feb. 7 at noon.

2. Authentic Lunar New Year Dinner
Dumplings attract wealth. Long, unbroken noodles symbolize longevity. Whole fish represent oneness. Tangerines bring luck. Pomegranates represent fertility.

The Lunar New Year Dinner is an event in and of itself.

“It’s like Thanksgiving. There’s a lot of food and each dish has a specific meaning,” Wong says.

If you want to experience a legit Lunar New Year dinner, then gather with MotivAsian for Cleveland for a 10-course meal at Li Wah Restaurant in Asia Town on Feb. 8 from 5:30-8:30 p.m.

“This meal is similar to a home-cooked meal that would be made by a Chinese family.”

So say "buh-bye" to lo mein and fried rice, because this is the real deal.

3. Lunar New Year Culture, Music & Dance
Adding to the ever-expanding collection of Lunar New Year’s fetes is the Confucius Institute’s Lunar New Year Celebration.

The organization, which is devoted to helping educate CLE about China's arts, culture and language, hosts its grandest of shindigs at Cleveland State University on Feb. 20 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Free and open to the public, this unique event is bursting with cultural activities ranging from traditional music ensembles and martial arts demos to cultural dancing and food tastings.

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