Even though it was pouring rain last year, the Year of the Monkey, Monisha Singh says some 10,000 to 15,000 people came out to the International District for the Lunar New Year. “I was shocked so many people were still there,” Singh, the events and programs manager for the Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area, says. “But it’s just such an important tradition.”
Even though the CID BIA took over production of the event some 20 years ago, the neighborhood had been celebrating the Lunar New Year long, long before that. In fact, it’s one of the biggest days for the neighborhood—a celebration and tradition shared by its Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese community members and business owners. “It’s a huge thing for their culture, religion, and family, and we really want to bring those traditions to the greater Seattle area and have them experience it with them.”
This year, the Year of the Rooster, is expected to be just as huge. For many, the number-one attraction is the food walk across 36 of the neighborhood’s restaurants, where select items like bun dumplings, takoyaki, and Nutella wontons will be available for $3 each (not to mention the midday kids’ noodle-eating contest). Performance-wise, one of the biggest draws is the opening and closing Chinese Lion Dance, lead by the Mak Fai Kung Fu Club and Master Leong’s Lion and Martial Arts. Donning brightly colored two-person costumes with huge furry heads and snapping mouths, community youth ages 3–18 dance accompanied by traditional music.
“We also have taiko drummers, Hawaiian dancers—we try to go broader on the Asian/Pacific Islander entertainment side to give people a glimpse of all the different cultures present here,” Singh says. The goal every year, of course, is to drive traffic to neighborhood businesses. “We really want to bring people into the neighborhood not even just for this day or this weekend; the Lunar New Year is really a season—a monthlong period.”
The neighborhood’s business owners expressed concern last weekend that the historically large Womxn’s March that paraded down Jackson Street, one of the neighborhood’s main thoroughfares, would affect business during one of its most crucial times of the year. “I think because the march was really peaceful, our businesses were OK,” Singh says, “they weren’t too upset. But it’s certainly challenging when you have that many people in the neighborhood marching.” If you came out for the march and packed the streets last weekend, consider packing them this weekend as well. Lunar New Year Celebration, International District/Hing Hay Park, 423 Maynard Ave. S., cidbia.org. Free. 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Sat., Jan. 28–Sun., Jan. 29.