(LI MIN/CHINA DAILY)
Wide range of celebrations planned in both countries
Lion dances, red envelopes, paper cuttings and delicious treats－all essential elements of Spring Festival－will not only occur in China in the coming days. Major festivities are also planned in the United States and the United Kingdom.
They will take place at shopping complexes, theme parks and museums across the U.S., with the activities meant to impress diverse audiences by celebrating one of the most important Asian festivals.
Elysa Marden, vice-president of Arts Brookfield for Brookfield Properties in New York, said, "We like to diversify our programming so there is something for everyone, ensuring that we reach numerous communities."
For seven years, the organization has presented family-friendly performances at Brookfield Place, a high-end shopping venue in Lower Manhattan.
This year, it is bringing a taste of Spring Festival to the Big Apple, with lion dances, martial arts demonstrations and traditional Chinese dancing in partnership with the New York Chinese Cultural Center.
"The Lunar New Year celebrations have become an annual favorite for Asian communities as well as the community in Lower Manhattan, attracting up to 4,300 people to the Winter Garden at Brookfield Place," Marden said.
Interest in the Spring Festival is also spreading to other major shopping hot spots across New York, including the newly opened complex Hudson Yards and retail giant Macy's.
Hudson Yards is featuring Chinese classical, folk and lion dancing. During Chinese Lunar New Year, visitors will exchange red envelopes decorated with lucky symbols or auspicious messages that contain cash.
Shoppers at Hudson Yards will receive special prizes and a chance to win gift vouchers after spending a certain amount.
Stores, such as fashion retailer Tory Burch, cosmetics brand Kiehl's, lifestyle outlet MUJI, as well as restaurants are joining in, offering exclusive deals and Spring Festival collections.
Macy's is taking the celebrations to six locations nationwide, with special in-store events and deals. Its stores in Herald Square and Flushing, New York, as well as three in California and one in Hawaii, are all preparing to welcome the Year of the Rat with lion dances, cooking demonstrations, giveaways, and more.
Jose Gamio, senior director of multicultural community engagement at Macy's, which first celebrated Spring Festival 10 years ago, said, "We are thrilled to highlight the diverse cultures of our customers, communities and colleagues by celebrating Lunar New Year across the country."
South Coast Plaza, the largest shopping center on the West Coast of the U.S., has the same history of celebrating the festival with extensive programs. Special performances and displays will be staged on two consecutive weekends at the retail hub, accompanied by free gifts, store and window displays, and exclusive offers.
Disney California Adventure Park and Universal Studios Hollywood are marking Spring Festival by dressing some signature characters in Chinese attire and staging performances featuring well-known China-related characters such as Mulan and Kungfu Panda.
Mickey and Minnie Mouse will be dressed in rat costumes designed by Chinese couturier Guo Pei.
Disney's Lunar New Year highlights include art walls to educate visitors about Spring Festival, featuring amusing incidents and unique stories from the different cultures that celebrate it.
A similar approach is being taken by museums across the U.S., which are presenting special programs and educational events.
Julie Marie Seibert, assistant educator for family programs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, said, "Each Spring Festival, we develop surprise, multimodal activities with artists, performers and arts organizations to connect visitors to a broader cultural community."
The museum has been hosting Spring Festival events for a decade, attracting more than 5,000 visitors every year.
"Through these activities, participants enjoy, learn and discover our galleries and broaden or deepen their understanding of cultural traditions represented in our collections. Families will have the opportunity to learn about communities across the globe that celebrate Spring Festival," Seibert added.
Marden said her organization has "received positive feedback from the diverse audiences that attend Brookfield Place events, who say they appreciate experiencing different cultures".
Lion dance performances, which appear to be especially popular among all the events staged in the U.S., are a favorite with both children and adults, Marden added.
"You can still enjoy the intricate and brightly colored costumes, interesting movements and drum beats, even if you don't know the meaning behind the Lion Dance－that it is chasing away evil spirits to bring good luck and fortune," she said.