The Tournament of Roses Association, with the help of the city and hundreds of volunteers, on New Year’s Day completed its 131st Rose Parade and the 106th playing of the Rose Bowl College Football Game.
But while that sounds like a lot of years, and it is, it’s really nothing compared to other New Year traditions around the world that have been celebrated not decades but millennia.
Because in the early 1870s it adopted the Gregorian calendar, which is followed by most of the Western world, Japan broke from its East Asia neighbors and began celebrating New Year on Jan. 1. But in China, which celebrates according to the Lunar Calendar, New Year’s Day could fall on any number of days in mid-January through February, and this year the Year of the Rat, according to the 12-character Chinese Zodiac, starts on Jan. 25, continuing through Feb. 8.
On Sunday Jan. 5, the Japanese American National Museum (100 N. Central Ave., Los Angeles; (213) 625-0414; janm.org) in Los Angeles hosted the O-Shōgatsu Family Festival, which included performances by Kodama Taiko, a performance by TaikoProject, lucky New Year foods like mochi, candy sculptures, face painting and Year of the Rat crafts. Current exhibits include “Under a Mushroom Cloud: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Atomic Bomb” which ends on June 7 and “Fighting for Democracy: Who is the ‘We’ in ‘We, the People?’” which ends on that day. The traveling exhibit, “Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in the Modern World” is also on display.
The USC Pacific Asia Museum (46 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena; (626) 449-2742; pacificasiamuseum.usc.edu ) will be hosting its annual Lunar New Year Festival beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, the day the Lunar New Year actually begins for much of the world. This event is free with live performances, art-making workshops and food trucks.
Be sure to set aside some time for the museum’s special exhibit by Oscar Oiwa. It includes an immersive 360-degree Dreamscape Dome in which visitors can observe the magic made from 120 sharpie markers wielded to create inflatable artwork by four master of fine arts students at the direction of Oiwa and his assistant. The effect may have you painting all your walls white and taking a Sharpie to them.
Oiwa was born in São Paulo, Brazil and grew up speaking Portuguese and Japanese. He also lived in Tokyo, working as an architect. It was there that he started painting and showing at small galleries. A naturalized US citizen, he currently lives in New York. At the exhibit there will be a mattress for people to lie on and enjoy the work, but space is limited and there may be a wait during peak periods, so plan ahead.
Those who love festivals and parades (and who doesn’t) will not be disappointed.
This Saturday, Jan 11, and Sunday, Jan. 12, ring in the Lunar New Year in Monterey Park, the first American city to become predominantly Asian, at the city’s annual two-day festival. The street fair takes up over five blocks of downtown Monterey Park with folk art, food and a carnival zone. The action begins Saturday morning with firecrackers and dragon and lion dances. Past festivals have attracted over 100,000 people so the city recommends utilizing the free parking shuttles at Mark Keppel High School, 501 E. Hellman Ave.) and El Repetto Elementary School (650 Grandridge Ave.).
On Jan. 25, enjoy the annual Alhambra Lunar New Year Festival. There will be more than 250 food and craft booths while lion dances, kung fu demonstrations and other performances on two stages set up on Valley Boulevard, between between Almansor Street and Garfield Avenue. The fun starts at 10 a.m. For more info, visit alhambralunarnewyear.com.
The following week, Feb. 1, check out the 121st Golden Dragon Parade as it makes its way up Hill Street and down Broadway in the heart of LA’s Chinatown. The parade is from 1 to 3 p.m.
In late March, at the time of the vernal equinox, comes Nowruz, a time of new beginnings that’s been celebrated for millennia. As Vox.com’s Caroline Framke explained a few years ago,”In Iran, the idea of ‘spring cleaning’ isn’t just a seasonal excuse to gut your closet; it’s the basis of a national holiday dating back millennia.
“Every year, millions celebrate Persian New Year, or Nowruz (prounced “no-rooz”),” Framke continued. “In Iran, the new year begins with the advent of spring, and most everyone in the country — not to mention the millions of Iranians and non-Iranians who celebrate the holiday elsewhere around the world — observe it by doing a deep clean of their homes, celebrating a season of new life, and wishing for good luck in the year ahead.”
As tweeter Reza H. Akbari explained, “Above all, Nowruz is a celebration of the possibility of new life. As is fitting for Persian and Zoroastrian culture, the ceremonies surrounding Nowruz center on community, family, and a deep respect for tradition. But Nowruz is less about a single day than a general celebration of being able to wipe away the dust, grime, and sadness of the old in order to start anew. It’s about closing the door on one chapter and turning the page to the next one with excitement instead of trepidation. It’s about the endless possibilities that come with a blank slate.”
At 8 p.m. on March 28 celebrate Nowruz and mark the beginning of spring and the rebirth of nature by washing away the past with Pacific Symphony under the direction of conductor Carl St. Clair at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts (South Coast Plaza, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa; (714) 556-2787; scfta.org). The program, which aims to unite cultures through the power of music, has yet to be announced. Tickets are $40. Doors open at 7 p.m.
Other Nowruz-related events apparently had not yet been listed as of this writing in early January.
Back in Pasadena, in celebration of the Year of the Rat, there are no rats in the inflatable Dreamscape Dome at Pacific Asian Museum, but you’ll see black cats and the white rabbit. In the Asian Zodiac some cultures don’t recognize the cat as one of the signs and instead have a rabbit. In Japanese culture, it’s a rabbit on the moon making mochi, one of the traditional New Year foods. Oiwa said that the cat represents shadow and the rabbit represents light. That seems very yin-yang. When you find one, the other won’t be far away.
Characteristics of the the Rat, the first character of 12 in the Chinese Zodiac, are those of a hardworking, thrifty and optimistic creature and applied to humans born in the years 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996 and 2008.
Happy New Year to all!