It’s time to Monkey! Lunar New Year, which follows Asian calendars based on the cycles of the moon, falls on Monday, welcoming in a new year governed by the Chinese and Vietnamese zodiac animal for 2016 — the monkey. It’s one of the Asian community’s biggest festivals around the world, and there are plenty of ways to celebrate South Sound-style. Here are four of them, from small to blowout, along with a guide to eating in the Lincoln district.
Are you a monkey? If you were born in 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004 or 2016, then this is your Asian zodiac animal. Famous “monkeys” include Leonardo da Vinci, Charles Dickens, Eleanor Roosevelt, Lucy Liu, Yao Ming, Josh Hutcherson, Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus
The local: Lincoln District community festival
Things are looking up at Lincoln again. The business district along Tacoma’s South 38th Street has had a hard time during the past few years, with an uptick in tagging and crime and a downswing in shoppers and restaurant-goers. But thanks to a partnership with the City of Tacoma, the internationally-diverse district is getting revitalization with a streetscape project and public art to make the neighborhood more inviting and to celebrate a sense of place.
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As part of that, the annual Lunar New Year Celebration is back for 2016, after a five-year absence. On Feb. 13, the community festival will kick off with a parade (beginning at East Asia Supermarket), followed by a ritual paying homage to ancestors (near Vien Dong) and the traditional Lion Dance with fireworks and crackers. The rest of the day will involve local businesses, restaurants and community groups.
It’s beyond a celebration. It’s a community-based involvement … to make something positive and rejuvenate the energy in the district.”
My Nguyen, Lincoln District festival organizer
“It’s beyond a celebration,” said My Nguyen, the city’s business outreach specialist and one of the organizers. “It’s a community-based involvement, setting aside competitive differences to make something positive and rejuvenating the energy in the district … I’m excited, and the business owners are beyond excited.”
Others are looking forward to it, too.
“We used to go every time they had (the festival),” commented Amanda Joslin via Facebook. “A wonderful cultural family event.”
“There are some very unique stores here … with things you’d find on Ebay, but here you can touch and hold them,” said Nguyen. “It’s rich in culture.”
The regional: Asia Pacific celebration at the Dome
Last year, 8,600 people came from as far away as Oregon and Vancouver, British Columbia, to celebrate Lunar New Year at the Tacoma Dome. This year, organizers of the 18th Asia Pacific New Year Celebration on Feb. 13 expect a crowd of 10,000 — and about half of them are non-Asian. They’re drawn by the enormous smorgasbord of Asia-Pacific cultures on show, from Fiji and Japan to this year’s featured country: Indonesia.
“It’s been growing every year,” says Patsy Suhr-O’Connell, president of Tacoma’s Asia Pacific Cultural Center, which organizes the event. “When people come, they’re able to see how all the Asia-Pacific countries work together. And they’ll take away what Indonesia is all about.”
The free family event packs the Dome with two stages of music, dance and martial arts from countries, including the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Japan and Korea, along with a food court — “You have to come with a hungry stomach,” says Suhr-O’Connell — plus activities and vendor booths. The 47 countries that are members of the APCC are represented in some way, with the big focus on Indonesia. Dance and music groups from that community will take the main stage noon-1:30 p.m., after the Lion Dance at 11:40 a.m.
Seattle-style: Wing Luke,Chinatown-International District festivals
This year in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District, you have two Seattle Lunar New Year events to choose from — or, do both. On Saturday, the Wing Luke Museum hosts a free Lion Dance to kick off an indoor exploration of Asian New Year culture that includes games, crafts, screenings of “The Monkey King,” face painting, a stuffed zodiac animal zoo, scavenger hunt and raffle prizes. Admission is free for kids and it’s a great way to go deeper into Asian culture and the Asian American experience through the museum’s fascinating building (a former first-stop boarding house for new immigrants) and exhibits. A passport guides you through the journey.
If you’re a monkey, you are: curious, clever, playful, creative, sociable, confident, optimistic and charming (from wingluke.org)
On Feb. 13, the district gets together for a big blowout street party that last year attracted more than 15,000 people to Hing Hay Park. This year, celebrations include the traditional lion and dragon dances through the streets (11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.), martial arts demonstrations (noon and 1 p.m.), cultural performances such as Filipino dance (12:45 p.m.), taiko drumming (2 and 3:30 p.m.), Chinese dance (2:30 p.m.), Bollywood dance (3 p.m.), a children’s costume contest and parade (1:30 p.m.), arts and crafts, and a food walk with about 40 local restaurants offering $3 small bites.
The treasure hunt: Monkeyshines
It’s not an Asian cultural tradition, but Monkeyshines has become a beloved part of Tacoma’s Lunar New Year festivities. The annual grassroots event where anonymous glassblowers around town make hundreds of glass balls and medallions imprinted with the new year’s animal (this year, the monkey) and hide them around town isn’t just a wacky treasure hunt. It has become a catalyst for other groups (ceramicists, yarn knitters, school groups) to make and hide their own cool objects for folks to find and for all of us to start doing random kind things for others.
“We want to make Tacoma a small town again,” said the anonymous organizer Ms. Monkey. “One common thread that I hear is community — people talk to each other again because of Monkeyshines.”
About the events
Lincoln International District Lunar celebration
When: 9:30 a.m. parade, 10 a.m. Lion Dance, other festivities through 5 p.m. Feb. 13.
Where: Lincoln district, centered on South 38th and Yakima streets, Tacoma (surrounding streets closed to traffic).
18th annual Asia Pacific celebration
When: 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Feb. 13.
Where: Tacoma Dome, 2727 E. D St., Tacoma.
Information: 253-383-3900, asiapacificculturalcenter.org/newyear.
Wing Luke Museum fair
When: 11 a.m. Lion Dance, 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. indoor fair Saturday.
Where: Wing Luke Museum, 719 S. King St., Seattle.
Cost: Dance free; admission $14.95 adults, $11.95 seniors, free for children and students.
Information: 206-623-5124, wingluke.org.
International District Lunar New Year
When: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Feb. 13.
Where: Hing Hay Park, Maynard Avenue South and South King Street, Seattle.
When: Organizers keep the exact hiding time and date a deep, dark secret so hunters don’t follow them around. But if you start searching early in the morning a day or so before, during and after New Year (Monday), you might get lucky.
Where: Publically-accessible locations around Tacoma. Try parks, businesses, sidewalks, front yards.
Tip: If you find several Monkeyshines, please only take one.