Lion dancers perform at the Lunar New Year celebration in the District56 center, Jan. 29. 

During the afternoon of Jan. 29, a Lunar New Year party was held at the District56 center by members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

This celebration was hosted by Assembly Member Stephanie Nguyen, D-Elk Grove; and Elk Grove City Council Member Darren Suen.

In a Zoom call prior to the event, Suen said that the celebration came into place after people were asking him what the city had planned after the Autumn Moon Festival was held.

“With the prompting from the community, we decided to do this,” Suen said. So it was just sort of a last minute thing. It was random, but still fun just trying to bring something to the community that everybody can enjoy.”

Nguyen said that the Lunar New Year is one of the most significant celebrations for those who celebrate the holiday within the AAPI community.

She mentioned that it was difficult putting this event together as a result of the recent shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, where the majority of the victims were part of the AAPI community.

 “Everybody’s really upset, but also living in fear right now and I don’t think it’s just our community, but it’s everybody overall,” Nguyen said.

At the celebration there were several Elk Grove police officers providing security for the event. 

“We’re very fortunate to have the Elk Grove Police Department who have committed to definitely being out here to ensure that our community knows that this is safe and that they should come out and celebrate this significant day,” Nguyen said.

The event was held in celebration of the Lunar New Year, which is commemorated by various members of the AAPI community, predominantly by those from countries such as China, Vietnam, and Malaysia.

“Lunar New Year is an important holiday in our country, China,” attendee Janet Huang said. “I want to see the Lunar New Year here too in the U.S.”

Lunar New Year marks the beginning of the first moon in the lunisolar calendar and is celebrated for 15 days. Customs include handing out red envelopes of money for good luck, reuniting and dining with family, and celebrating the final fifteenth day with the Lantern Festival where everyone carries red lanterns to pay respect to deceased relatives.

Attendee Bobby Wu said that it’s considered “a fresh start in Chinese culture.”

“For Chinese people, the first day of the new year is anywhere from late January to early February because we have our own calendar,” he said. “If you have any wishes, any goals, any planning then you’ll have a good start.”

Vendors were present at the event, offering items such as scented candles, self-published books, calligraphy prints, AAPI cuisine, lanterns, and even community resources for those who needed them. Arts and crafts tables were also available for children who wanted to have fun while their parents were perusing the vendors.

Theresa Chao Rother, one of the vendors and a Mien community member, said that the Lunar New Year is a time for celebrating her culture.

“It’s a time of festivity, community engagement, unity… it means a lot to me, my family and my roots as well,” she said.

At the event, three performances marked the celebration at the civic center. The First performance consisted of two lion dancers performing onstage and going around the venue “devouring” red envelopes from attendees.

The second performance included a rhythmic and strong drumming act by drummers dressed in traditional Korean clothing and using authentic Korean drums.

The final performance was another choreography of lion dancers; however, they were accompanied by traditional Chinese instruments this time and ended their performance on the main stage to signify the end of the event in one last big show.

Towards the end of the event, Suen was happy about the turnout despite how last minute the celebration was put together and how much it shows “how much everybody wants to recognize and celebrate this tradition.”

Elk Grove City Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen also attended the celebration and said that celebrations like this help ensure all generations are a part of it.

 “As the young children look with their beaming eyes at the dragons, it gives them not only hope for the new year but, of course, the importance of celebrating one’s culture,” she said.