Two events welcome the ‘Year of the Rat’

There’s nothing cheesy about seeing outer East Portland folks enjoying the gala Chinese New Year traditional celebrations, featuring dancing lions, and symbols designed to bring good luck – not rodents …

Martial arts demonstrations provided some of the entertainment on the stage at Midland Library for the Chinese New Year’s celebration.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Because the time allotted to celebrate the incoming Lunar Calendar year lasts several days, both of these events were official Chinese New Year celebrations.

At Midland Library
On February 17, we stopped by the Midland Library to spend a few minutes at their Chinese New Year festival.

Serving Asian refreshments at the library’s celebration are Amanda Vu, Donna Trung, and Jadine Delfin.

Making crafts at Midland Library are Chris and Hien Tang.

“Welcome to our celebration of the Lunar New Year,” we were greeted by Javier Gutierrez, manager of Midland Library. “The Chinese celebrate starting on February 8th, and it ends on the 22nd.”

The library put on the event because they endeavor to encompass all of the cultures one finds in outer SE Portland, Gutierrez explained. “In 2006, we conducted a survey to determine how our community is changing. What we’re trying to do is serve the new communities moving into Portland.”

Ngoc Nguyen is helping guests with their Chinese New Year crafts.

For many peoples from different countries, Gutierrez noted, the notion of a public library is quite foreign.  “What were doing is helping them learn that their public library is a place for them to come, learn, socialize, and find cultural enrichment.”

Donna Dionne, VP of Midway Business Association, welcomes guests to the celebration.

At PCC’s Southeast Center and Legin Restaurant

Annie Chung; Wing Kit Chung, vice president of administration; Preston Pulliams, district president for the college; and Nan Poppe, president, Extended Learning Campus, Portland Community College

The following day, on February 18, Portland Community College’s Southeast Center held their event, primarily at the nearby Legin Restaurant Ballroom.

We were welcomed by Nan Poppe, president, Extended Learning Campus, Portland Community College. “This event has grown every year – to the point that it won’t fit in our grand atrium hall. It’s the chance for the community, students, and staff to come together and celebrate Asian culture.  Every year we learn a little bit more about their cultures.”

Northwest Lion Dance Association brings three fanciful, colorful and acrobatic lions – and their percussion section – to start the Chinese New Year’s celebration at Portland Community College Southeast Center’s event.

An event organizer, Trina Hing, said the event was important, “Because we want the community to be aware of our population of students, and to share the different Southeast Asian cultures.”

In addition to the population of Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Laotian students, the school also provides services for students from Russia, Latin American countries, and Somalia. “Today, everyone is enjoying this Chinese custom.”

Costumed dancers from many Asian cultures performed for hundreds of celebrants.

The event started with three hours of dances, demonstrations, and speeches. Then, the tables were cleared for arts and crafts, children’s games, and some vendors.

Lisa Hayes, student government ASP chair for the event, told us a lot of planning went into this year’s celebration. “It has taken for months, at least one meeting a week, to set this up. We went out into the community and talked businesses and associations into working together and as a team.”

Although a little nervous about the outcome of the event, Hayes said, “I’m really excited, I’m really jazzed.”

What did she look forward to the most?

“The best part of the day for me is the Lion Dance,” Hayes replied, just as one of the three mighty lions awoke, and the opening ceremony began.

People filled the Legin Restaurant Ballroom as the celebration go underway.

Representatives from different Southeast Asian countries talked about the Lunar New Year traditions celebrated by their people.  This included a bowing ceremony, dances, and a lesson in how to say “happy new year” in Chinese.

This first Chinese character was shown upside down, meaning that happiness and luck is coming. When turned upright, it means that happiness and good life has arrived. “It comes from the Ming Dynasty, about 700 years ago. Now it is traditional in use all over the world.”

After the three-hour program a Chinese-style lunch was served to the happy and hungry throng.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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