Wiz Chinese, a group of Palo Altans of Chinese heritage, will host its annual Lunar New Year celebration on Saturday, Jan. 21, from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Mitchell Park Community Center.
Community members will celebrate the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit with music and dance performances, food and drink, and Chinese cultural activities.
According to Wiz Chinese president Lily Chiu, the Lunar New Year festivities have been a fixture in Palo Alto since the group hosted its first independent celebration in 2016.
Chiu recalls making hundreds of dumplings for the first Lunar New Year fair she helped with, an event hosted by the city in 2015. She's been involved in Wiz Chinese ever since.
"I made about 500, and then we gave them away. It was very popular," she said. "So the next year we thought, maybe we can organize this by ourselves."
They started reaching out to the community and finding co-sponsors, and an annual tradition was born. The New Year celebration has grown in popularity, often attracting several thousand people. Chiu predicts 2,000-3,000 people will attend Saturday's event.
This year's fair will be the first to be held in person since the start of the pandemic — in 2021 and 2022, community members marked the holiday on Zoom.
Since 2020, there's been a marked rise in prejudice against Asian communities in the U.S. Events like the Lunar New Year Fair help combat anti-Asian hate by promoting unity and friendship across the community.
"That's one of our missions," Chiu said. "Because we want, through the events we host, to make a difference. To make the whole community get unity and let them know more about our Chinese culture. We want to make people more friendly to each other."
Chiu said the fair is an opportunity for valuable community bonding, both for Chinese families and for other Palo Altans.
"Through the Chinese New Year Fair, we can do some Chinese cultural promotion," she said.
The Lunar New Year activities are an especially valuable way to pass on Chinese traditions to young people, many of whom were born in the U.S. and aren't very familiar with their cultural heritage.
"For most of the families, we found they follow the Western tradition more than the Chinese tradition," she said. "So that's why we want to promote the Chinese culture to the young generation and to others."
Food will be a central part of the fair. Visitors can enjoy everything from bubble tea to dumplings, and local restaurants will sell snacks at booths at the event. There will also be dancing, music, games such as mahjong and raffles.
Admission to Saturday's event is free, although there will be a charge for some of the activities. Proceeds from the fair will be donated to the Palo Alto Unified School District. More information is posted at WizChinese.org.
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