Lunar New Year Events – Review

I have been to many Lunar New Year events at this point.  Here is my impression about some of the events listed on my Lunar New Year Events page.  I updated this on Jan 26, 2014.

IMG_1024Lion Dance Events at the Montgomery County Libraries.  We have been to many of these events at Montgomery County Libraries.  There used to be more events than there have been in the last couple of years due to budget cuts.   The Chinese Youth Club of Washington does Lion Dance performances at several libraries throughout Montgomery County (check the schedule). In 2014, these Lion Dance events are happening at Praisner Library on January 18, 2014, Germantown Library on January 25, 2014 and Chevy Chase Library on February 22, 2014.

The lion dance events were the first events we went to with Danny.  The Chinese Youth Club of Washington consists of drummers and lion dancers and a laughing Buddha.  They do the dances in a meeting room and then they may do the dance around the library in a sort of parade.  This is very nice small and intimate event to go to.  I’m pretty sure we have been to almost a dozen in 5 years (more than one a year).  The best thing about this is that you are so close and you really get to see the lion dancers.  And then if you are with small children and they don’t enjoy it, you can easily get up and leave.  One year we met members of our adoption group to see the CYC Lion Dancers.  Many of the children dressed in their ao dai’s (Vietnamese national costume).  The CYC leaders were very nice to us and even invited us to march with them in the parade in Chinatown that year.

IMG_1139Chinatown Parade in Washington, DC.  In 2014, the parade is February 2.  We have been to this parade twice in 5 years.  For us, it is always dependent on the weather.  Both years is was relatively warm (above 45 degrees).  The event started at 1:00 or  2:00 pm, but this is a perfect time to go early and have lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown.  We picked a small Chinese restaurant and got there before the crowd came in town.  If you have not been there, Chinatown is very small, about 2 blocks long.  There are two stores down there I like to shop at while in town for the parade, you can find the names and addresses of the shops I like on MyAsianKidDC.com.

After lunch there was a little time for shopping.  The second time we went, we were quite prepared.  We brought chairs for us to sit in on the curb and a stroller for Danny to sit in.  We positioned ourselves at the beginning of the parade, which was on I street between 6th and 7th Streets, (nearer to 6th St.) .  For a couple of years, there had been a website highlighting the parade as a way to get more business to the area, but unfortunately the website is gone.  There had been a parade map on that website.  Now I guess the best way to get a map of the parade route is to look on the Washington Post website or paper the morning of the Chinatown parade which is February 2, 2014.  The paraders gathered in Seaton Park, located on a trapezoid of land, south of Mass. Ave NW, east of 6th St. NW, north of I  (Eye) St. NW , and west of 5th St. NW.   So that is a place to go watch the bands and the lion and dragon dancers prepare.

The parade itself is very short.  I timed it at 18 minutes from the start of where we saw the first parader to the last parader. (But this was at the beginning of the parade, it may have been longer and more spread out by the end of the parade.    In fact we got up and went to watch the parade at a second location and see if all again.  That was our mistake because we got caught in the crowds and had a hard time getting to the Metro.  “I” Street was much less crowded for standing and watching the parade than H Street.  There were lion dancers, and a dragon dance.  Vendors sold those little fire crackers that you throw on the ground to make noise.  It is a must buy for any parent.

IMG_1081Lunar New Year Festival at Fair Oaks Mall, Fairfax, VA – In 2014, this is a 2-day event, February 2 and 3.  The times are not posted as I am writing this, but my guess is that it will start at noon.  I believe it is customary to have a Lion Dance at the start of the performances.  We were there a few years ago, also to meet families with children adopted from Asia.  The mall is a big space and you can watch either on the lower level or on the upper level.  It was not a great place to meet a large group because there are so many places to stand.  We got there in time to see the beginning Lion Dance (a must for our children).  But we also stayed and saw a Dragon Dance, which is not to be confused with the Lion Dance.  There are 2 people per Lion Dance costume.  There may be 15- 30 dancers in a dragon. They hold sticks holding up the dragon.  We saw martial arts performances, Hawaiian dancers and a few more groups before we called it a day and went for ice cream.  Of all the many performances I have seen for Lunar New Year, I would say the caliber of these performers were tops!  But it was crowded and maybe a little bit overwhelming for the youngest.

For the last couple of years this has been a two weekend celebration, I see they have changed it to one weekend this year, so there are fewer chances to see these fabulous performers.  I think each group got 15-20 minutes to show their stuff.  This is definitely a place to see really great performances.  Get there early to get a better seat/standing position.

Lunar New Year Celebration at Lake Forest Mall, Gaithersburg, MD – This event spans 2 weeks and includes displays and two weekends of performances.  I am actually going to do a mini review of this even though I have not gotten to this event yet.  This takes place on February 2-3, and February 8-9, 2014. Both Fair Oaks Mall and Lake Forest Mall are run by the same corporation.  And it is sponsored by the mall and the Chinese Culture and Community Service Center.  I venture to guess that this celebration is as good as the one in Fair Oaks.  There is a huge Chinese Community in Gaithersburg, North Potomac, Rockville and suburbs like that. I have only heard good things about this celebration.

IMG_0025Eden Center Tet Celebration.  Eden Center posted on their Facebook page that their celebration is February 2, 2014.  At this writing it is not on their website.  This is the celebration of Lunar New Year, known as Tet in Vietnam by the Vietnamese community.  You really get the Vietnam flavor by coming to this.  It is primarily Vietnamese at this celebration.  Some of the celebration takes place outside in the parking lot and some of it takes place in the mall area.  There are lion dances every 30 minutes or so in the parking lot.  Warning: there are a lot of fire crackers and they are LOUD.  And because there are fire crackers, there is lots of smoke.

We have been to this celebration twice.  The last time, we met friends and had a meal in one of the restaurants inside the mall area of Eden Center.  There are Lion Dancers outside in the parking lot, but there are also Lion Dancers in the mall.  I believe the restaurants pay the Lion Dancers to perform the dance inside of their restaurants to bring good luck throughout the year.  We were in a restaurant when the Lion Dancers came it.  So this was the authentic experience.  This is the time to eat in restaurants.  When we were in the restaurant, US Senator Mark Warner (Virginia) made an appearance at the same time as the Lion Dancers.  Some of the stores are closed because they don’t want a million people coming in during the Tet celebration.

Parking is a problem, especially because part of the parking lot is used for the celebration.  There is parking behind the center and we had to park in the neighborhood one year.   The announcements are mostly in Vietnamese. There are South Vietnamese flags all over the place and even (Vietnamese) veterans in their uniforms.  I’m not talking American veterans of the Vietnam war, but Vietnam veterans of the American war in Vietnam.  This is the place to go for an authentic experience.

IMG_0978Tet Celebrations at different Schools.  So far I have a few of these events listed, just as I am getting ready to post this. We have been to ones in Northern Virginia and in Silver Spring.  These are events put on by different Vietnamese organizations for the Vietnamese community.  Each one has its own flavor.  They sell food and other things.  The food is more Vietnamese than I am used to, as I tend to like the Vietnamese food that Americans usually like. The food offered here is different.  At some of the events there is a stage for performances.  Others, there is no stage.  There always seems to be at least one or two lion dancers that perform at each event.  There was a event at Montgomery Blair High School one year and the next it was at Northwood High School, both in Silver Spring.  Often the music is too loud no matter what event you go to. Most of the announcements are in Vietnamese.  We saw one of the staff at my child’s school at one of these events last year and she was sooooo excited to see him at a Tet event.  I guess it was really unexpected that non-Vietnamese (his parents) would be at this type of event. Vendors sell different things at each event.  The one at Northwood last year, I got an ao dai (Vietnamese national costume) from a charity.  The selection was pretty good and the prices were great.  I have also bought some Vietnamese embroidery paintings from an event in Northern Virginia.  These events are extremely crowded.  Some are free and some are a couple of dollars to get in.  There is one event that is put on by the Vietnamese Boy and Girl Scouts, another put on by Vietnamese Senior Citizens, another by Boat People SOS.  I think we have been to 4 or 5 of these events in the last 5 years.   I don’t feel unwelcome, but I don’t feel welcome either.

I do want to say I always see local politicians at these events.  In Montgomery County, I’ve seen county executive, Ike Leggett,  and in Fairfax County, there are usually a couple of the members of the board of supervisors who attend these events.

Virginia: Saturday Jan 18 at Ernst Community Center in Annandale – I have not been to this one.  Sunday January 26, Tet Festival at JEB Stuart High School in Falls Church.  I have been to this one. This is the one with lots of Boy Scout and Girl Scout Troops participating.  Lots of food for sale here.
Maryland: Sunday Jan 19 at Northwood High School in Silver Spring.  I have been to this one, this is where I got the ao dai for my kid.  They had a stage here.

IMG_2714Li Ming Chinese Academy at Aspen Hill Library, Rockville, MD.   It is on February 1, 2014. The date was changed for this performance.  They  had added a second performance on Saturday February 8, 2014 at Gaithersburg Library.  We went to this last year. I don’t know if this year’s performance will be the same. This performance was my all-time favorite of all performances that we have seen to celebrate Lunar New Year.  The Li Ming Chinese Academy did several performances between which teenage spokes persons talked about different Chinese traditions.  This is the only place I have been that did a really good job explaining to non-Chinese about the traditions of Chinese New Year. There were Lion Dancers, martial arts, zither players, shadow puppets, crafts, demonstration of food found at a New Year dinner with explanations, and Chinese Yo-Yo demonstrations.

It is a small room, come early to get a seat. I was especially impressed with the teenage students who talked about the Chinese traditions.  Many students from this academy were involved in this performance.  If you don’t get a chance to go, you can see some of it on YouTube.

Chinese New Year Festival at Luther Jackson Middle School This is February 1, 2014.  This is another event I have not been to.  But it is a big event put on by the Asian Community Service Center.  I suspect it is well-organized.  They always have a website and I will have to get there one year.  It is a one-day all day event and it is free.  I have found the events organized by the Chinese community to be well run.  Is it welcoming to non-Chinese?  That, I don’t know.  Is the food good? I don’t know.

Chinese New Year Celebration at Port Discovery Children’s Museum in Baltimore is Saturday February 8, 2014.

I have not been to this either, but I do want to point this out that this is a non-Chinese organization which is attempting to educate children about a Chinese (and other groups) tradition.  I’m sure it is very family friendly and a great place to start and dip your toe in celebrating Chinese New Year.

City of Rockville Lunar New Year Parade and Festival

No Date has been announced for this as of Jan 26, 2014 – Will it even take place?  — not looking too good for 2014.

IMG_2920I am writing this before I have a date for this event.  We went to this last year for the first time.  This has happened for less than 5 years, but is already 5 times bigger than the parade in Chinatown in Washington, DC.  There were lots of marchers and it took at least an hour.   This event included a parade, some performances that occurred at night, which I did not attend and children’s crafts.  The parade had Lion Dancers, Dragon Dancers, people in the costumes of the 12 animals of the zodiac, all sorts of other Chinese and Asian performers.  A car with Miss Vietnam, martial artists, Chinese Qigong (or something similar) performers.  People dressed as dragon boats (see photo).

It also included crafts and children’s activities at VisArts in Rockville.  You buy tickets to do the children’s activities.  We waited over 1 hour for a face painter and decided not to do any other children’s activities.  We ate lunch at

Linda Fang Storyteller

Linda Fang is a Chinese storyteller who works with local schools.  She is one of the Asian acts available from companies who manage school entertainment and education as part of the arts in the schools.  I have not seen her but hope to hire her for a cultural arts assembly in a future year.  This is your chance to see her for free at a local library. She will be at Little Falls Library telling tales for Lunar New Year on Tuesday January 21, 2014.  That is a professional day for teachers in Montgomery County; there is no school. Young Audiences of Maryland represents her and has put this video on YouTube.

There is still a performance at Little Falls Library, but Linda Fang is no longer listed on the web site. 

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