Palo Alto Chinese New Year celebration welcomes all

Event seeks to bring together the city's Chinese community and its broader communities

Palo Alto residents won't have to travel to San Francisco's Chinatown to celebrate this year's Chinese Lunar New Year. The city's growing Chinese and Chinese-American communities are hosting their own, and the party is open to all residents.

The Palo Alto Chinese New Year Fair will include performances by folk dancers and people playing Chinese musical instruments, a kung fu showcase, a fashion show of traditional Chinese dress, a comedian, Chinese calligraphy and brush painting, dumplings, mahjong and tai chi. Food will be sold, but admission is free.

The fair is sponsored by the Palo Alto Neighborhood WeChat Group and the Palo Alto Chinese Parents' Club and will be held on Feb. 21, 2-5 p.m. at Mitchell Park Community Center.

The groups' goal, besides a New Year celebration and all-around fun, is to broaden relationships with Palo Alto's larger communities, said Hui (Debra) Cen, a member of the 20-person planning committee and co-founder of the Palo Alto Chinese Parents' Club.

"People need to communicate more and understand each other and build friendships," Cen said. "We don't want to see people separated. Some residents are not so comfortable with immigrants."

Palo Alto's Asian population stands at 25.9 percent and is growing, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Many of those residents are Chinese or of Chinese parentage. As both immigrants and longtime Palo Alto residents, Cen and co-organizer Amy Yang said they have seen a need for stronger links within and without the Chinese immigrant community. When they became neighbors on the same block of Lowell Avenue, they noticed more and more Chinese immigrants on their block, and with that they saw cultural misunderstandings, a feeling of isolation and a lack of understanding the school system, they said.

"We understand the difficulty coming through," Yang said, noting they both came to the U.S. more than 20 years ago. Yang has lived in Palo Alto for seven years; Cen for 10 years.

In 2013, they formed the Palo Alto Chinese Parents' Club to provide a community through which Chinese immigrants could help each other. Since then, the Chinese Parents' Club has offered four to five activities annually that include parenting education, the sharing of student experiences, education regarding American culture, parent socials, mental health and suicide-prevention education, and an emergency-preparation fair.

They formed a Palo Alto Parents WeChat Group, which allows for social networking and texting, in March 2014; it grew to 500 members within two months, Cen said. The group's popularity led to a series of new WeChat groups, including Palo Alto Neighborhood WeChat, which was formed by resident Jack Sun, who is leading the Chinese New Year celebration, Cen said.

Cen and Yang began talking about creating a Chinese fair after attending the 2014 French Fair at Lucie Stern Community Center, an annual event. The theme of this year's New Year fair, "Share festivity, build community," will include a dumpling-making station where people can learn how to make Chinese dumplings, and a fortune teller -- a fung shui master -- who will advise visitors on what is good for them to do in the coming year, Cen said.

At least five culinary stations will sell finger food.

"With the Chinese population so big in Palo Alto, it really is necessary to bring everybody together," Yang said.

Yang and Cen said members of their community are eager to develop friendships with others. Their greatest barriers are language and culture.

"I was lucky to have developed a deep personal friendship with one American mom who is third-generation Japanese American and the mother of my son's best friend 15 years ago. She brought me into her social circle.

"Through her, I developed a deep personal friendship with a group of American women and understand American culture better and (have) become comfortable to social(ize) and make friends with Americans," Cen said. "Therefore, one person's openness and kindness can make a huge difference in an immigrant's life."

Cen and Yang said they hope the joyous Chinese New Year fair will be the first step in bridging that gap, and they know that building strong relationships goes both ways.

"Our Chinese community will continue to encourage our immigrant parents and children to go out of our own comfort zone to participate in community activities and give back to the community," Cen said.

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21 people like this
Posted by East West concer event
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2016 at 8:57 am

Also, it is not necessary to go to San Francisco for a Lunar New Year concert. Palo Alto-based youth symphony ECYS has its annual Lunar New Year fundraising celebration concert in Cupertino, Feb 6. There will be lion dancers and great East West music. Gwhyneth Chen, considered one of the great piano players in the world, will play Yellow River Concerto. Although ECYS does have a number of free concerts throughout the year, this one is not, however cost is reasonable for this type of concert.
Web Link

13 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 31, 2016 at 10:41 am

Chinese New Year is not just about "immigrant parents and children". Many (perhaps most) Chinese-Americans are descendents of the Chinese that immigrated to California during the 1850-1880 Gold Rush and railroad building period. Long time Americans still enjoy looking back at their cultural roots from time to time.

49 people like this
Posted by Caveat Emptor
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2016 at 2:16 pm

The Lunar New Year celebration in Cupertino has become very exclusionary. [Portion removed.] The one in Chinatown, being far older and more established, is more open and welcoming to all comers

28 people like this
Posted by SF
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 31, 2016 at 4:54 pm

The Chinese New Year parade in SF is fabulous, complete with Chinese dragons, amazing costumes and performances, and schoolkids from various SFUSD schools with Chinese immersion programs and/or located in North Beach/Chinatown. I'd strongly encourage Palo Altoans to attend this as well.

2 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2016 at 5:21 pm

CCTV (The Official Government TV channel in China) goes all out every year staging a Spring Festival Gala. The link below points to some videos that have been uploaded to Youtube offering some colorful views of Spring Festival, and its promotion inside of China:

Web Link

If you are interested, the descriptive text, in Chinese, can be readily translated via Google Translate.

26 people like this
Posted by Caveat Emptor
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2016 at 8:01 pm

[Post removed.]

13 people like this
Posted by East West concert event
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2016 at 8:03 pm

Dear Caveat,
I am not sure if you were referring to my post, but just to be sure, I wanted to mention that I was posting about a youth symphony concert, not a city celebration. The Lunar New Year concert is a wonderful celebration that is a rare and welcoming place for families to enjoy classical music together, including children. Year to year, they have different guests, but always really enjoyable East West music. It's a rare opportunity to experience such high quality music for such a reasonable price, and pieces you just don't hear everyday. Seniors, by the way, may purchase tickets for the student discount price. Please see the link in my post above,

Happy New Year to you! May it be a warm and welcoming year in every way.

17 people like this
Posted by BetterWriting?
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2016 at 10:25 pm

Thanks to the Chinese community leaders for dedicating their time and effort, and for organizing such a fun cultural event.

And thanks for the coverage, PAonline.

I only wish that whoever wrote this piece would have read it twice before putting it to print. Some poor word choices outside the quotation marks that a middle schooler would be able to fix would have easily become obvious. This article would have read as smoothly as the norm of your publication.

1 person likes this
Posted by Linda K.
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 22, 2016 at 12:07 pm

Such a fun cultural event! I loved trying all the delicious food, taking in the performances -- and meeting lots of welcoming, friendly people. I won a raffle prize too! Big thanks to the Chinese community for all their time and effort to organize this!

2 people like this
Posted by Hopeful
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2016 at 8:52 am

[Post removed.]

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