"I was surprised and very happy to join the City of Azusa's Chinese New Year Celebration," Zhang Yue, who has lived in the small city of Southern California for 10 years, told Xinhua when attending the first Chinese Lunar New Year celebration on Tuesday night.
Azusa is a 25-square km city at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains in Los Angeles County. According to a 2018 report released by the Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles, there are over 500,000 Asian Americans in the San Gabriel Valley, over half of whom are Chinese.
There are a variety of Chinese New Year celebrations every year in Southern California, especially in the San Gabriel Valley, which is known for its vibrant Chinese-American community.
"Unlike other cities such as Arcadia (59.2 percent Asians) or Rosemead (60.7 percent Asians) in the San Gabriel Valley, Azusa is not a typical Asian community. I think this celebration shows that Asian culture is widely accepted and promoted," Zhang said.
The celebration, which took place in Azusa's City Library, started with a librarian telling stories about the tradition of the Chinese New Year, such as what people do on each day of the festival.
"We are also handing out the red envelopes to the children, they get to enjoy that whether they are from this culture or not," said Melody Tehrani, a librarian who helped organize the event.
Around 200 people came to the library to enjoy the celebration, which was "more than we expected," said Tehrani, "for some people in Azusa, they do not know much about Lunar New Year, it is exciting to share and teach this culture."
Following the story-telling part was a well-received lion dance, in which performers introduced the symbolic meaning of chasing away evil spirits and bringing happiness, longevity and good luck. People were able to get to the lion, touch it and learn some lion-dance movements.
"Our son, Lucas, really like the lion dance," said Richard and Onory Corran, who brought the whole family to the event. "We want to introduce the kids to a different culture."
"It was my first time to see a lion dance... It was very entertaining!" Jackie Miller, a participant of the event told Xinhua when enjoying the Chinese egg-rolls and dumplings with her husband after the performance.
"I did not know before that the lion could move its eyes and change its facial expressions. They (the performers) made it look like a real animal. It was very animated, very nice, and very enjoyable," Miller said.
"My parents are visiting (from China), so I want them to experience the American way of celebrating the Chinese New Year," said Jake Huang, a young immigrant who brought his family to the event. "I also want my kids to know more about Chinese culture. It is very important for them to learn about their Chinese heritage."
At the event, a group of senior Chinese residents in Azusa made a video presentation to introduce the history of the Chinese Lunar New Year, teaching people the differences between lunar calendar and solar calendar and how to wish people Happy New Year in Mandarin.
"One of the reasons for Azusa to celebrate Chinese New Year is the growing Chinese population in recent years," whose growth is significantly faster than any other racial group, said Zhu Fangfang, a presenter of the event.