Happy Lunar New Year! The Lunar New Year is a celebration marked by family meetings, festivities, and delicious food across East Asia, including Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Lunar New Year is an important tradition for those families who have immigrated from various Asian countries that keeps them connected to their cultural heritage. Lunar New Year celebrations may vary from person to person, yet the common thread among them includes participating in familial gatherings over dinner or attending local festivities such as witnessing spectacular fireworks displays or marveling at the lion dance performances, all to usher in good fortune and prosperity. Sadly, Monterey Park, CA, which has a significant Asian population, was struck by a devastating gun violence incident over the Lunar New Year weekend. The gunman was about to take more lives in the city of Alhambra until a brave man, Brandon Tsay, disarmed the gunman and saved lives.
Despite the horrific violence, Alhambra residents showed resilience and celebrated the Lunar New Year Celebration in more humble ways. The 2023 Alhambra Lunar New Year Festival honored Alhambra’s local hero Brandon Tsay, creating a heartwarming unification between community members honoring Brandon and the Monterey Park victims. The community gathering and being in each other’s presence, was a healing experience that was heartening for the city of Alhambra. These festivities make people feel at home and comfortable being themselves. No matter your cultural background, you are always welcome to these events to learn and enjoy the cultural significance.
Li-xi or Red Envelopes for the Lunar New Year!
Alhambra’s Lunar New Year celebration displayed many traditions including arts like calligraphy, lion dancing and of course Li-xi (pronounced li-si) envelopes! A li-xi envelope or a red envelope is perhaps the most well-known tradition of the Lunar New Year. A Li-xi envelope contains money, where family members give children or each other red envelopes to ring in wealth and success for the New Year.
Asian Boss Girl's co-founder Janet Wang with their Children's Book Lucky Cat!
The celebration also featured local Asian organizations. Asian Boss Girl is an organization of women who grew up as daughters of Asian American immigrants, and they were promoting a children’s book called "Lucky Cat". The book contains themes of Asian immigration and creating a business, while also trying to find your place from being a child of Asian immigrants and being an Asian American. Lucky Cat specifically focuses on Asian immigration to America, but it is a universal story that other immigrants can resonate with. Asian Boss Girl promotes confidence and creates a community of Asian American women by sharing their experience as children of Asian immigrants and their struggle to find their place in their own culture and America.
A Spam Musubi at the Alhambra Lunar New Year Festival
The festival had quintessential Asian delicacies including delicious Spam musubi’s. This is a staple in Hawaii, as it is a combination of the Japanese Musubi or Onigiri which is a traditional rice ball filled with pickled plum, seaweed, or fish. When the Japanese immigrated to work in the pineapple plantations in Hawaii, they used Spam to make their musubi’s since it was a cheap commodity, hence the name Spam musubi. The Spam musubi was delicious and quite popular with the crowd as well! 85 Degree Bakery, a delicious Taiwanese bakery all over Los Angeles, also had a booth at the Lunar New Year festivities. They offered a variety of delicious traditional Taiwanese pastries. Their take on a chocolate croissant was flaky and decadent!
Various Baked Goods from 85 Degree Bakery
Feng Shui is a large part of the Lunar New Year because the arrangement of items in a household can determine whether you will have a promising or a poor year. Good luck charms for safety, money, and success are popular this time of year to ensure the New year is auspicious. The festival sold feng shui objects and charms to be displayed around the house to welcome the New Year. The most popular feng shui item was the adorable rabbit figurines symbolizing the year’s Lunar New Year sign. One signifies wealth and good fortune for the New Year while the other brings in good luck and wards off evil spirits.
Feng Shui Year of the Rabbit Good Luck Figurines
Going to the Lunar New Year Celebration creates an understanding on how these events that celebrate cultural differences and traditions can bring everyone together, making it an enjoyable experience for all. Being encouraged to attend a cultural event you may not know much about is the best way to learn about the culture and immerse yourself into it. Embracing and acknowledging different cultural backgrounds creates unity, and it is a beautiful site to see people coming together and supporting one another regardless of their cultural differences.