Past celebrations at Mitchell Park Community Center have attracted between 2,000 and 4,000 people and raised more than $7,000 annually for Palo Alto schools, said Debra Cen, WizChinese board member and cofounder. Last year's celebration was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
WizChinese, a Palo Alto group, wanted to bring the community together and promote giving, organization members said. The online celebration will retain many of its most loved elements.
"It is a pandemic version of our usual Chinese New Year Fair. The ZoomFair will feature dumpling making lessons, story telling about Chinese New Year and promoting giving red envelopes (donations) to a COVID Relief Fund," Cen said. "All the donations collected will be sent to the Palo Alto Community Fund or Palo Alto Unified School District for providing COVID relief."
Participants can sign up online for multiple events, which will take place between 2 and 3:30 p.m.:
Dumpling making and competition: Chinese families, especially those from northern China, celebrate the Chinese New Year by making dumplings together, Cen said.
"Dumplings not only resemble reunion but also are a symbol of prosperity because their shape resembles ancient Chinese money," she said.
At the ZoomFair, participants will learn how to make and cook dumplings or show off dumpling-making skills. Prizes are available for newbies and experts alike.
Participants may choose to make their own dumpling dough and filling (there also are five dumpling filling recipes on the event website) or order a ready-made dumpling kit. The kit costs $10 and includes one pound of pork, chicken or vegetarian filling, fresh dough and one package of round wrappers.
Orders can be made through the event's online registration form, on which participants may select their choice of filling. The event organizers will place a group order and notify participants the day before the event to pick up their kits from Dumpling City, 3487 El Camino Real, Palo Alto. They'll also help deliver the kits to seniors or people with special needs, they said.
Taichi and fortune telling: After a tumultuous 2020, participants can start off the new lunar year by learning how to improve their health using qi gong from tai chi master Lily Li. Tai chi and qi gong use movement to shift the body's chi or life energy in healthful ways. The exercises improve flexibility, balance and agility, decrease stress, anxiety and depression and increase energy and stamina, among other benefits, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The zodiac is fundamental to the Chinese New Year, with a 12-year, repeating cycle. An animal and its reputed attributes represent each year. Colors, the elements and other factors also figure into the predicted outcome for the year, according to various Chinese zodiac websites.
In 2021, it's the Year of the Ox. People born in ox years are said to be diligent, dependable, strong and determined, according to Chinese zodiac websites. This year, fittingly, is said to be one of endurance.
At the ZoomFair, fortune teller Susan Su will help decipher participants' horoscopes, with predictions about romance, business and health.
Red envelope giveaway: Red envelopes containing cash are traditional gifts during the Chinese New Year and are often given to children, students and people who are unemployed. The tradition extends to weddings and other events as a way to bring good fortune and prosperity.
"I still remember vividly how excited I was when I was a kid. I was so looking forward to the red envelope. My mom usually put crisp new bills in my red envelope that added an additional excitement," Cen said. "Giving a 'red envelope' is also considered a very honorable thing in Chinese culture, so both recipients and givers of 'red envelopes' are happy."
Palo Alto's virtual Chinese New Year Fair will have a red envelope giveaway, with a $150 top prize. Many more prizes will also be given, organizers said. The red envelopes will be delivered or can be transferred digitally, Cen said.
COVID-19 relief fundraising: In recent years, virtual red envelopes have become vehicles for this wealth distribution on the Chinese social media platform WeChat, Cen said. Tencent, which operates WeChat, has used a red-envelope giving and receiving feature as a key factor to quickly expand the number of Chinese users on WeChat, she said.
The ZoomFair will also offer a chance for participants to donate to worthy causes. This year, a COVID-19-relief fundraising campaign for the community's hardest-hit members is at the heart of the event.
"We are planning to combine the Chinese New Year red envelope tradition and Americans' 'Give back to community' concept to do the fundraising," Cen said.
All proceeds will be donated to the Palo Alto Community COVID-Relief Fund and the PTA Council. WizChinese is offering a $4,500 matching grant to kick off the campaign. Donors can click on a link on the event webpage to give a red-envelope donation to those in need.
Palo Alto Chinese New Year ZoomFair
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