by Roger Walk
Our local Chinese community welcomed the new lunar year with traditional meals, exchanging red “lucky money” envelopes, or with more modern New Year parties among family and friends. For those who follow the Chinese calendar, the new lunar year began on January 31 on the Gregorian calendar. The new year 4712 is designated to the horse, one of the twelve rotating Chinese zodiacs. Those who did not want to miss watching a dragon or lion dance, had to travel out of the county to join fellow Chinese, Asians, and American friends of the Chinese culture for those colorful traditional dance performances.
Chinese New Year festivities traditionally start on the first day of the month and continue until the fifteenth, when the moon is brightest. All over China, people may take several days of holiday from work to prepare for, travel to family, and celebrate the New Year with family and friends as Americans do for Thanksgiving.
The number of Asian inhabitants in Chesterfield County and Chester is significantly lower than in neighboring counties such as Henrico. According to the 2012 Census, the proportion of Asians (which includes Chinese) in Chester and Chesterfield County is only 2.2 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively, while the proportion for Virginia is on average 6.0 percent.
Reportedly most of the Chinese population in the Chester area is associated with restaurants and takeouts offering Chinese food. As Eric Hou, proprietor of Hunan Garden at Chesterfield Meadows South, phrases it “only a few Chinese live here in the Chester area and they have not formed any groups, yet, that foster Chinese traditions and culture.”
He and his family celebrated the arrival of the year of the horse with a special dinner at their home. Days before they had joined Chinese friends for a New Year’s party at a local Chinese restaurant.
Since other public celebrations were not offered this year in the Chesterfield area, China-born Tianying Zhang and her husband Mingda, who have lived in Chesterfield for many years, had to travel to the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen on January 19 to watch the lion dance.
The event included the Peking opera, other traditional Chinese dance and acrobatics performances, and children activities.
It was presented by the Organization of Chinese Americans – Central Virginia Chapter, and regional Chinese Schools. Like the ChinaFest at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond last year, the New Years Celebration at the Cultural Arts Center this year, provided an opportunity to showcase Chinese traditions and culture for non-Chinese citizens in the region for a better cross-culture understanding.