Lunar New Year brings celebration in the U.S. (includes video story)

The Year of the Tiger officially began on February 1. Washington, D.C. always marks the lunar new year in its very own Chinatown – established in the 1880s – within walking distance of the White House. The Year of the Tiger represents resilience and bravery, and during the time of the pandemic, D.C.’s Asian community is hoping it will bring good fortune.

The annual Lunar New Year parade in D.C.’s Chinatown was canceled and moved to a three-day virtual event for the second year. Before it went virtual, the community witnessed many interesting celebrations. At the Tony Cheng restaurant, for instance, a person dressed as a Chinese dragon would go through the restaurant. José Lemu, one of the restaurant’s waiters for more than 20 years, describes that time.

“It was all very exciting,” Lemu said. “The dragon would go into the kitchen too. The dragon represents money and good luck.” He hopes the event comes back next year. 

The Kennedy Center hosted “The REACH Winter Lanterns,” which was canceled last year due to the pandemic. This display from January 27 to February 6th showcased the traditional, winter lanterns which represent good wishes, and are usually sent up to the sky. But, the Kennedy Center put a twist to this tradition and displayed the winter lanterns outside of the Reach. 

The display featured 100 lanterns made with eye-capturing LED lights that were luminescent and with beautiful, bright colors that would capture anyone’s attention. There were different types of lanterns ranging from elegant butterflies, cute pandas, and various dazzling plants. 

Julia Chang is Korean American and also happens to be the pageant titleholder of Mrs. Maryland America. She was at the Kennedy Center to see the winter lanterns and wearing a traditional Korean dress called a hanbok. Chang says she went with her family to celebrate her Korean heritage

“I wanted to bring my three kids here and they’re instantly like, ‘Oh, my gosh look at the pretty lights,’ so this is a really fun way for us to celebrate Lunar New Year,” Chang told SFMN. 

Chang says one of the ways she passes on her Korean traditions to her children during Lunar New Year is by making traditional dumplings. She and her family sit around the table and enjoy time together making them, and of course, eating them.  

“We brought pork and all the ingredients and just sat around the table together,” said Chang. “It’s just a fun way for us to celebrate around food and fill our bellies with good food.”

The Kennedy Center event was not exclusively the lantern display. There were also photo opportunities with tigers, pandas, and other mascots from both Chinese and Korean cultures.  

Junhan Park, a full-time student at George Washington University from South Korea, was excited to be part of the celebration. 

”As a Korean person representing the Korean people here in D.C., I just wanted to volunteer and show those kinds of great things here so we could kind of celebrate it.” 

Another volunteer, Sandy Yun, handed out books and pamphlets on Korean culture and other Lunar New Year traditions. 

“My grandma was born in the Year of the Tiger,” Yun said. “So that means a lot to me since I haven’t seen her in so long. So it is a good start to the new year. We have all these people interested in Korean culture.”

“We’ve partnered with the embassy of the Republic of China, and also the Embassy of Korea and the Korean Cultural Center,” added  the Kennedy Center’s Sirena Dib, assistant manager of programming “We have these beautiful lanterns that we brought in from New York City and they were made by Chinese artisans.” 

The event was very popular with people of all cultural backgrounds filling up the courtyard where the display was and enjoying the lanterns.

Daniela loves to tell stories. Her favorite ways to tell stories are through video and photography. She is interested in human-related stories, food, and nature.  She enjoys exploring, eating, and meeting new people. She is working towards getting her degree in Broadcast Media with a track in TV Production.

Gabriela Enamorado is a junior at Florida International University majoring in journalism and minoring in History. She grew up in Fort Lauderdale and hopes to one day work for a magazine or newspaper.