Library hosts Chinese New Year celebration

Music, dance and treats highlight the coming of the 2015 Lunar New Year at Holgate Library. Take a look at the entertaining that took place there …

Celebrants fill Holgate Library, ready for the 2015 Lunar New Year celebration to begin.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

The “year of the sheep” or “year of the goat” – depending upon whichever Asian tradition one chooses – began on February 19, as Nián Jié – loosely interpreted as “New Year Festival” – began.

In southeast Portland, the Holgate Library was filled to capacity with celebrants of the Lunar (Chinese) New Year the evening of February 23. Their festivity wasn’t a bit “late” – the celebration runs through the Lantern Festival, this year observed on March 5.

Holgate Library’s Leslie Pena helps Maily with crafts.

This centuries-old celebration was traditionally a festival during which deities and ancestors were honored. Nowadays, it is a opportunity for families from many Asian countries to gather together for an annual reunion dinner, and to “sweep away any ill-fortune” and clear the way for incoming good luck.

Just before this year’s celebration began, Holgate Library Administrator Victoria Oglesbee and her staff announced that they were happy to welcome the throng that filled the building.

Library Administrator Victoria Oglesbee is assisted by Karen Nguyen and Sean Khoo, as they start the celebration.

“At our library, we serve our patrons with diverse national backgrounds,” Oglesbee told East Portland News. “There is a large Asian community in this area, and it is only fitting that we have a Lunar New Year celebration here, with and for them.”

Our interview was cut short, as drummers from the Wisdom Arts Academy, nearby on SE Powell Boulevard, pounded out a rhythmic beat to bring forth the “Good Luck Lions” to begin the celebration.

Drum performers from Wisdom Arts Academy bring these “Good Luck Lions” alive, to the delight of the crowd.

Food is an important part of a Lunar New Year celebration: here, volunteers provide a Westernized version of traditional green Egg Cakes, and oranges.

Side tables were available, dedicated to Lunar New Year themed crafts. However, most of the attention was focused on the traditional dances and martial arts demonstrations in the central area of the library. These captivated some 100 children and adults, of all nationalities.

While celebrants had to forgo the custom of lighting firecrackers after the entertainment, participants did receive red paper envelopes containing “lucky money” – in this case, foil-wrapped chocolate coins.

Vanessa Mendez Martinez gives a spirited martial arts demonstration with a shaft, symbolizing a spear.

In a swirl of color, this dancer moves to the beat of Westernized Asian music.

Chinese language scholars say that the word “sh?nyáng” refers to goats, sheep, rams, and even yaks. So, choose your favorite critter, and have a happy, peaceful Lunar New Year!

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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