In past years, the Chinese New Year Celebration in Lexington included auctions of Chinese paintings and calligraphy, and performances by Chinese acrobats and magicians. The sold-out 2010 celebration, on Saturday at the Lexington Opera House, will include live music by Abigail Washburn and members of the Beijing Opera, and Cheryl Pan, , a professional dance artist living in Lexington who specializes in teaching Chinese ethnic dances.
Demand was so high for the event that an additional celebration has been scheduled Sunday at ArtsPlace; the show will be smaller and feature some of the acts from Saturday's bill.
"Every year, we have different artists and different dances," says Charles Chan of the Kentucky Chinese American Association, which organizes the event. "Every new year, you hope for a better beginning."
The Chinese New Year is full of traditions. While the first day of the new year changes every year — this year it is Feb. 14 — there is always a 15-day celebration leading up to it, Chan says. Every day holds a different tradition — eating certain foods, dances such as the lion dance and the dragon dance, music, fireworks.
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"There are so many traditions in the Chinese New Year, and that makes it difficult for people to truly understand what it's about," Chan says. This weekend's event will help people better understand many of these traditions, he says.
Each Chinese year has a different animal. They are significant because people born during those years are said to have the qualities of that animal. This upcoming year will be the Year of the Tiger.
"People born in the Year of the Tiger are sometimes aggressive and are go-getters," Chan says.
Among the performances will be Chinese music played on the pipa, a Chinese lute; the zhongruan, a Chinese string instrument; the erhu, a two-stringed violin; and the dizi, a Chinese flute. Members of the Beijing Opera and the University of Kentucky Chinese Ensemble, and professional Chinese singers also will perform.
Washburn, a Nashville string musician who blends bluegrass music with Chinese songs, also is on Saturday's bill. She has played Lexington several times with her Sparrow Quartet, which includes Lexingtonian Ben Sollee. Although she was born in Illinois, Washburn, 30, lived in China for a time, and in 2008 she recorded a project to raise money for victims of the earthquake in Sichuan, China.
nic dances, also is on the bill.
Saturday's event will include a market with festival foods, traditional costumes and Chinese displays, and activities and crafts.
Among the highlights will be a lion dance. Two martial artists will dress as the lion, and they will perform a ritual to Chinese drums. Following a tradition, Chan will offer a head of lettuce to the lion. If the lion is happy and satisfied from his offering, he will have a rich and prosperous New Year.
"It's a Chinese tradition for business owners," Chan says. "If the lion accepts the offer, then the owner will have good business."