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Hundreds celebrate the Lunar New Year at Oakland museum

on February 24, 2015

Little kids enjoyed petting sheep and baby lambs on a sunny, Sunday afternoon in the Oakland Museum of California’s garden in celebration of the Lunar New Year. The museum welcomed in the new year with a fun-filled festival of Chinese and other Asian traditions for the fourteenth year in a row, as hundreds of children and parents learned how to write Chinese characters and watched performances in celebration of the Year of the Sheep.

“We’re very fortunate to have the support of many organizations and foundations,” said Cynthia Taylor, the museum’s Assistant Director of Public Programs. “Today our main supporter is the federal government through the Institute of Museum and Library Services [IMLS]. We are so thankful for the IMLS, so we can continue to do it every year.”

Performances from dozens of groups around the Bay Area showcased their talents and lit up viewers’ faces throughout the afternoon. Families enjoyed watching performances ranging from a traditional Chinese lion and dragon dance to a Korean drum dance, Indian folk dancing, plate spinning, martial arts demonstrations and acrobatics. “My favorite part was the drumming and the karate,” said first grader Akira Bowman, a young festival attendee.

There was even a magic show during which parents were invited onstage to partake in the tricks. Before finishing her set, magician Jade made a cute puppy named Tiger appear onstage. Audience members followed each performance with a loud applause.

“Oakland is so diverse—we have not just Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese. As an important institution for art and culture, it’s important to bring other artists that we usually don’t see in the community to the museum,” said Snowy Tung, the museum’s Public Programs Developer.

Children also made dragon puppets, Chinese lanterns and learned about the art behind making traditional Japanese Hamamatsu kites. Little girls walked throughout the museum with beautiful Chinese opera-style face paintings. (Parents had to reserve a time for their daughters with a face-painting artist to transform them into a Chinese opera performer.) Afterwards they were able to wear a costume and take pictures in front of a lighted background displaying a scenic garden with a Chinese temple.

“It’s been wonderful for us because I’ve come with my kids,” said attendee Kirsten Bowman. “They’ve been learning about Chinese New Years, and the Lunar New Year — and to hear not just about Chinese New Year but about all the other Asian cultures, too. It’s been amazing.”

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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