It's the Year of the Rabbit!

TFK's Taylor Pannell checks out the Lunar New Year festival at the Pacific Asia Museum, in Pasadena, California

Feb 04, 2011 | By TFK Kid Reporter Taylor Pannell

What do lions, elaborate costumes and men on unicycles have in common? They can all be found at the Lunar New Year festival at the Pacific Asia Museum, in Pasadena, California! On January 29, nearly 5,000 people gathered to take part in the museum's spectacular celebration. TFK Kid Reporter Taylor Pannell was there to join in the fun and to learn about the Year of the Rabbit.

Museum visitors relaxed under the cool shade of a tent as they enjoyed the festivities. There were tables for arts and crafts and booths loaded with food, drinks and souvenirs. Performers took the stage every half an hour and amazed the audience with astounding tricks. Guests watched in awe as a man kicked bowls onto his head while standing on a unicycle! Another act featured Chinese cultural dancers twirling in colorful costumes.

TFK Kid Reporter Taylor Pannell with Becky Sun of the Pacific Asia Museum.
COURTESY PANNELL FAMILY
TFK Kid Reporter Taylor Pannell with Becky Sun of the Pacific Asia Museum.

Bring in the Lions!

The highlight of the afternoon began with the loud beating of drums. Then, three magnificent lions burst into the tent! Of course, they weren't real lions. They were trained dancers dressed in furry, colorful lion costumes. The performers paraded and swerved through the captivated audience.

Becky Wong is the team leader of the youth lion dance group that performed on Saturday. She says she likes watching the lion dancers "play with the crowds." "The personalities of the lions are all different," she said. The lion is considered a holy animal. Lion dancers are thought to bring good luck to the people they visit at their homes or businesses.

History of the Holiday

More than a billion people worldwide celebrate Lunar New Year. Museum official Jenny Lin took some time to explain the holiday's history. "It's called Lunar New Year because it is based on a [calendar] system that looks at the moon," Lin said. "The date of the holiday fluctuates, or changes, with the cycles of the moon."

Each year is named for one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. February 3 marks the end of the Year of the Tiger and the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit. The rabbit is known for its quickness in physical speed and in wit.

The 15-day New Year season represents a time for celebration and renewal. Firecrackers are very much a part of the New Year's festivities. Tradition calls for wearing new clothes (people often wear red) and getting together with family and friends for a big feast. Many businesses shut down for the holiday. It is also a time to honor your ancestors.

In organizing the Lunar New Year festival, Lin says the Pacific Asia Museum hopes to teach more people about the holiday and its traditions. "We live in a very global community today," Lin told TFK. "We want to help people understand each other." Next year, 2012, is the Year of the Dragon. So, if you're in Pasadena, don't forget to stop by the Pacific Asia Museum and enjoy the festival!