As the Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb 19, draws close, Chinese Americans in the Bay Area are gearing up to celebrate the most important festival in Chinese tradition in a variety of formats, be it a galas, concerts or cooking competitions. Their efforts at preserving and promoting the essence of Chinese culture in San Francisco and beyond have far-reaching significance.
On the official side, the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco announced a series of festive activities at a press conference on Jan 28. According to Luo Linquan, consul-general in San Francisco, there will be a symphonic concert, a Pan-Asian music festival, an international arts festival, the annual Spring Festival Silicon Valley and the 4th Annual Chinese New Year in the Desert in Las Vegas.
"Chinese New Year is playing an increasingly important role in intercultural communications and becoming a window for other countries to get to know China," said Luo, adding his consular district will be busy from Feb 1 to Mar 8 with events.
Activities this year, under the umbrella theme of "Happy Chinese New Year", will have three general characteristics, said Luo: "The celebration will take place in a much broader area, performances will be more diverse and cooperation with Chinese and local groups will be even deeper and closer."
The Chinese New Year Symphonic Concert, to be held at the Flint Center in Cupertino on Feb 22, will focus on Chinese contemporary music and is organized by the Pacific Arts & Culture Exchange (PACE) for the first time in Silicon Valley.
"We are excited to present an evening where people from diverse cultural backgrounds can gather and celebrate this special occasion," said Ca Jindong, artistic director and conductor.
The performances will include Dramatic Cantata, Ask the Sky and the Earth, Spring Festival Overture, Little Sisters in Grassland Pipa Concerto and Yellow River Piano Concerto. The concert features about 200 professionals and music lovers from the Chinese mainland and overseas, including a 100-person ensemble of musicians from the China Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra, which will make its debut this year in North America.
The Pan-Asian Music Festival will be held in Stanford University's Bing Concert Hall on Feb 20 and 21. The Panda International Arts Festival, featuring a performance by the Anhui Opera Theater, will be held at the Performance Art Center in San Leandro on Feb 1. And the 7th annual Spring Festival Silicon Valley will be staged at the Center for the Performing Arts in San Jose on March 1. In Las Vegas, the 4th Annual Chinese New Year in the Desert will be held on Feb 20 and 21.
"Chinese New Year gives Las Vegas and its visitors the opportunity to honor and celebrate Chinese heritage in a vibrant and exciting way," said Michael Goldsmith, vice-president of international marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority.
Informally and unofficially, many Chinese Americans are hitting the ground running to carry on the Spring Festival tradition through a variety of venues.
On Feb 1, United for a Better Community (UBC), a grassroots civic group established in 2014 and mainly composed of informed naturalized Chinese Americans, sponsored the 2015 Silicon Valley Food Festival with another organization called Let's Have Some Coffee in Cupertino. With 300 attendees and five teams competing for first place by demonstrating cooking techniques for delicacies originating in Beijing, Yunnan, Shandong and Sichuan provinces, the organizers said they wanted to spread Chinese culture and tradition through the inalienable ingredient of Chinese culture - dining.
"It requires joint efforts from each and every Chinese American to work together in order to promote Chinese culture in the US," said Charles Liu, president of UBC at the gathering at the Quinlan Community Center in Cupertino.
Xiao Xiayong, cultural counselor at the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco, said he hoped that these celebrations would inspire Americans' interest in learning more about Chinese culture, and also help promote cultural exchange and mutual understanding between the two countries and people.