For Chinese immigrants in Spokane, Lunar New Year is a time to remember where they came from and share their culture with their new home. “The new year is a time to get together,” said Ping Ping, president of the Spokane Chinese Association.
To that end, the group will host “Descendants of the Dragon in Spokane: Our Culture, Our Stories” at University High School from 1-6 p.m. Saturday, the first day of the Year of the Rat, the first year of the 12-year Chinese Zodiac cycle. The event will include a cultural fair, calligraphy demonstrations, music and dance performances and, for the first time, storytelling.
“I think it’s very important to us to have our voice heard by the larger community and our own,” Ping said. “To share our stories is very meaningful and impactful for ourselves and the larger community to know us better.”
Ping will be one of the storytellers, as well as Sam Song and Mary Zhu. Ping said her story is a humorous one, about the confusion of learning a new language, all while registering her son for preschool.
“It’s not an easy life,” being an immigrant, she said. She has a doctorate but still struggles with language barriers at times.
At the cultural fair, there will be calligraphy and painting demonstrations by Wang Zongren and others, as well as paper cutting, traditional chess sets and other traditional games. Children (and adults) can learn to use chopsticks by trying to pick up pieces of candy or peanuts, Ping said.
The Spokane Chinese Dance Group will perform traditional Chinese folk dances, and choirs will perform songs in Chinese and English.
This year’s event is free thanks to a $6,000 grant from Spokane Arts. “This is a huge encouragement and acknowledgment of our effort,” Ping said.
The Lunar New Year is a time for families to gather in China. So this time of year can make one long for home and family, Ping said. Working on the local celebration lends a sense of bonding to the members of the Spokane Chinese Association.
“We are a big family by doing this,” she said. China is a country with thousands of years of culture, Ping said. “And we cannot forget it even though we want to integrate.”
Fortunately, she said, the United States embraces diversity and respects culture. “We really want to maintain our own cultural traditions but also send a message that we exist here, we exist as the descendants of dragon.”
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