Braving a drizzly Saturday afternoon, the annual Chinese lantern festival appeared for the ninth time at the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument north of downtown Los Angeles.
â€œI think itâ€™s beneficial overall for all the different cultures that come from different parts of the world to LA,â€ said Al Soo-Hoo, president of the board of directors for the Friends of the Chinese American Museum, an organization that in part helps support the museum and its events. â€œIt helps … toward appreciation of the diversity that the greater Los Angeles has and really all of Southern California.â€
The festival, which ended the 15-day celebration of the Chinese New Year and welcomed in the Year of the Tiger, was free of charge and not only presented a cultural tradition, but also a response to widespread budget cuts that have been affecting the arts and cultural education programs in schools across the state.
â€œFor me you donâ€™t really get to see these things,â€ Chantel Lee said, reigning Miss Friendship of the Miss Los Angeles Chinatown pageant and communications major at Cal Poly Pamona. â€œThe festival highlights Chinese traditions and brings people to the museum and Chinese culture.â€
Hands on activities were available for free to the festival attendees and included tiger puppet making, Chinese calligraphy, face painting and lantern making.
An exhibition of the traditional Chinese New Year dinner table was available for viewing as well as live entertainment. Staccato Chinese music accompanied stunning acrobatic performances and tricks of skill that showed off individual feats of balance and aim.
One acrobat entertained the ethnically and age diverse crowd with a balancing act on a unicycle while tossing dinnerware into a bowl on his head with his foot.
â€œThereâ€™s a lot of eating and happiness,â€ said Jani Wang, reigning Miss LA Chinatown and business and accounting major at the UCLA. â€œWeâ€™re here supporting the Chinese American Museum and getting people to see the historical aspect of Chinatown.â€
Though a few of the on-stage performances were canceled due to weather conditions, the festival had plenty to offer. Besides the colorful red and gold lanterns that were strung across the hazy gray sky, the festival featured three Chinese authors who were present for book signing.
Childrenâ€™s literature authors, Oliver Chin, â€œYear of the Tiger,” and Paula Yoo, â€œShining Starâ€ displayed their works and participated in conversations within the Chinese American Museum located next to the lantern festival.
Bonnie Tsui, former â€œNew York Timesâ€ correspondent was also scheduled to be present with her works including â€œAmerican Chinatown: A Peopleâ€™s History of Five Neighborhoodsâ€.
Set up alongside the Olvera Street Mexican marketplace, the lantern festival fit right in next to the luchador masks, leatherwork bags, and hand woven ponchos. Both the marketplace and the festival promote cultural communication, said Soo-Hoo.
â€œItâ€™s educational from the aspect of learning about others so that it helps toward understanding,â€ Soo-Hoo said. â€œHaving the knowledge helps with relationships.â€
To Soo-Hoo, the festival acts as a type of farewell ceremony that marks the end of the celebration and the time to go back to work after a long New Years vacation.
â€œIn China, when it’s time for New Years, the factories close down and everybody returns to their homes for a family celebration,â€ he explained. â€œWhen it was over, they all have to go back to the city, back to work. Itâ€™s like the Sunday after Thanksgiving.â€
For the Chinese American Museum, the lantern festival is a way to expand the minds of students who arenâ€™t able to receive the cultural education that they need.
â€œAs schools face deeper budget cuts â€¦ and as personal incomes and savings continue to dry up, families are now seeking other ways of supplementing their childrenâ€™s education, at an affordable price,â€ Pauline Wong said, Chinese American Museum’s executive director.