Lunar New Year event hopes to celebrate cultures and togetherness

Even though the traditional American new year celebrations have come and gone, the party doesn’t stop there. For the first time, Midland is hosting a Lunar New Year event. The family-friendly, inclusive celebration aims to increase awareness, education and celebrations of different Asian cultures. 

The event takes place on Saturday, Jan. 21 at Dow Diamond from 2 to 6 p.m. The celebration includes traditional performances, vendor tables, educational cultural information, a separate ticketed event with food tastings, drinks, and fireworks.

Revolution Chinese Yo-Yo is scheduled to perform at the Lunar New Year event.
Emily Lyons is a committee member in the planning group that’s behind the inaugural Midland Lunar New Year event. “Our Asian friends, family, neighbors and colleagues are the largest minority in the county. I started asking about why there wasn’t a big Lunar New Year event, and looking into it, there was a lot of interest,” she says. 

Lyons says the goal is to raise awareness of the Lunar New Year, which is a big deal for many countries. It’s also to highlight the differences between U.S. holidays and other celebrations in other countries, while also enjoying the similarities. 

“Lunar New Year is very intergenerational, not dissimilar from our Thanksgiving,” she says. “We hope that everybody of all ages comes, and we did our best to make as much of it as accessible to everyone as possible. It’s for everyone.”
The Lunar New Year includes a ticketed, tasting event.
Yang Jiao, a Midland resident, originally from China, is also involved in the planning of the Lunar New Year event. Jiao serves on several boards in the city, including Midland Center for the Arts, Midland Cultural Awareness Coalition, and the Tri-City Chinese Association, who are collaborating for this first-ever event. 
Ideally, if successful, Jiao and Lyons hope to make the event an annual celebration like many other familiar Midland events, including Riverdays. 

“Midland is by nature, a very multinational community, which is a blessing and unique to a small town of our size in the Midwest,” Jiao says. “It is very unique in what it can offer compared to size. Living here, I think there’s a big potential for more visibility of such a multicultural population. City-wide events like this and celebrations like this are a great thing.”

Jiao hopes the inclusive, interactive, educational event showcases culture, but also provides an excuse to enjoy a colorful celebration, in the middle of a typical gray winter. She thinks of this time of year as the post-Christmas ‘blues’ season, after many downtown festivities are over.

“People always complain that Michigan winter is long, but if you find yourself and your family cheerful stuff to do, maybe the winter’s not as long,” she says. “With all the white and gray, it would be nice to have some colors to light up these lonely months in downtown Midland.” 

Enter the fireworks, sponsored by Dow Credit Union, at 6 p.m. The event also includes live entertainment and performances from 2:15-5:30 p.m., including Revolution Chinese Yo-Yo, Lim’s Tae Kwon Do Academy, Indian Dance, Midland Chinese School, Chungs School Tai Chi, and a Lion Dance performance. The ticketed tasting event runs from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at the suite level of Dow Diamond, and includes samples of East Asian cuisine.

Organizers hope to make the Lunar New Year an annual event.
Jiao says the 15-day celebratory event is the most important one of the entire year in many Asian countries. Since it operates on a Lunar calendar, based on the moon, the date it falls on the Western calendar changes every year. It can take place anywhere from the last weeks of January to the middle of February. Although it might be an unfamiliar title, the Lunar New Year is a very familiar celebration, says Jiao.

“Despite being from different cultures, and of different skin colors, people are not that different,” she says. “We all celebrate basic values, we all love family, good food, natures’ bounty and have great hopes ahead of us for the new year in the spring. It’s really not that different, deep down, we celebrate the important things in life.”


 

Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.

Sarah Spohn is a Lansing native, but every day finds a new interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over Michigan, leaving her truly smitten with the mitten. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, community, and anything Michigan-made. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at sarahspohn.news@gmail.com.