Chicken and Nugget are part Vietnamese, and one of their favorite things about being Vietnamese, apart from the food, is celebrating Chinese New Year. It means a feast and games with family, parades, lion dances, and dragon dances. Nugget in particular is all in when it comes to the celebration. He even has his own kid sized lion dance costume, which I must say he looks adorable in.
Portland actually has a variety of Chinese New Year celebrations if you know where to look. So far this year we participated in two events. Chinese New Year is technically over, but we have one more thing to do this weekend! Maybe these activities will prompt you to seek out some celebratory adventures next year.
This year I took Nugget downtown for the Chinese New Year opening parade. We got there really early- like first-ones-there early. This was good because we got to spend time picking out the prime location. Nugget changed his mind about where this might be about eight times, but we really did wind up in the perfect spot!
The celebration starts in front of the Siren theater, off 3rd and Davis. People used bamboo fishing poles to lower down fire crackers that were set off in metal baskets. Then came the dragon, lion dancers, and what Nugget refers to as the “fat baby” accompanied by a live drummer. After the initial performance is over, you are invited to follow the lions as the visit local Asian merchants to wish them a prosperous new year. Nugget was thrilled to be up close and personal with the lion and giggled as the “lions” were fed lettuce that they “accidentally” tossed into the audience. The whole thing ends in off Burnside near the Chinese Garden. You have the option of entering the Chinese Garden (paid admission) for even more activities.
I believe this was the 4th year that this parade has taken place, and hopefully it will happen for many years to come. It is a fun, family friendly parade that provides a glimpse into some of the fun traditions associated with Chinese New Year. It is important to note that the firecrackers and drumming are quite loud, which may be disconcerting to some littles who are not used to the sound. Even Nugget, now 6, a child who has seen these things many, many, times, proudly stated “I didn’t even cover my ears or cry this time!” And he LOVES it.
Nugget then accompanied his dad to the Chinese Lantern Lighting at Lan Su Chinese Garden as one of his “tickets” from the adventure box the kiddos got for Christmas. This is a closing celebration that takes place over a few days at the Chinese Garden. The garden is lit up with beautiful traditional lanterns and the pond his home to a glowing 20 foot dragon. There are more lion dances, music, dance performances, and activities. Nugget came home as happy as a little clam. He thought the lion dances were fantastic, and he was very proud of the paper lantern he made as well as the paper he brought home that had Chinese calligraphy on it.
Tickets to this event, which can be purchased on Lan Su’s website, did sell out for all dates a couple of weeks before the event, so don’t procrastinate! Adults were $45 and children were $15. Hot cider was provided, and additional food and beverages were available for purchase. It is an outdoor event on a February evening, so make sure and dress warm!