HOUSTON – The Chinese Community Center’s Lunar New Year celebration is a yearly Houston tradition.
According to organizers, last year’s one-day event attracted at least 12,000 visitors.
This year, with the pandemic not yet over, the celebration is going virtual. And it starts Thursday afternoon on CCC’s YouTube channel, ending on Saturday.
“We are very grateful that, at least now, we can do the celebration online,” said Mei Li, the CCC’s director of Cultural/Community Development. “So there is a celebration - it’s just in different forms. And we also encourage people to stay home and watch our programs with their families.”
Organizers began considering the potential of a virtual Lunar New Year celebration last summer and ultimately decided in December that this would have to be the way to do it, at least for this year.
“At that time, the pandemic was going on, so we were thinking if this didn’t die down in the summer, in the winter it wouldn’t get better that fast,” Li said.
Usually, the event is organized into three parts for a one-day event: the stage area for various performances including lion/dragon dances, an outdoor bazaar featuring local food vendors, and also a kids corner with games and activities.
“Because it’s virtual, we break it (up) into three days of celebration,” Li said. “Obviously, you can’t watch all day’s (worth of) events - that’s very tiring.”
Organizers had their reasons to create the format in the order they did. As it’ll already be Lunar New Year in Asian countries on Thursday evening, the first day is about food to commemorate people gathering to celebrate. The CCC prepared pre-recorded videos to help introduce what foods are from which regions, including an instructional video for how to make dumplings from scratch. The performances, including the traditional lion/dragon dances, come on Friday. The more educational portion into the cultural elements of Lunar New Year come Saturday. There will also be interactive games with prizes given out.
And while the face-to-face interaction won’t be had in person, there’s a benefit of having an audience beyond Houston with the virtual format.
“Before maybe last week, I didn’t even think about that,” Li said. “But this year, since we started to do the promotion on Facebook and a lot of platforms, I keep on getting messages, phone calls, or e-mails from people from out of state. I’m like, oh wow, yes! Because it’s online, we can celebrate, (and it’s) not just the out-of-state people. It’s also out-of-the-country people.
“A lot of my co-workers - they also sent the links to their friends out of the United States back to their hometowns. So people can enjoy together! So in a way, even though we’re not physically together, but imagine with this internet tool, the whole Earth - people can come together and celebrate. I’m really happy about that and it’s a nice surprise.”