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Humans (and dogs) of Alhambra’s Lunar New Year celebration

  • All photos by David Muñoz, unless otherwise noted.

  • Photo by David Muñoz.

  • A person ladles food at the Alhambra Lunar New Year festival celebration. Photo by David Muñoz.

  • Photo by David Muñoz.


Alhambra , CA United States

Joyce and David Lu with their daughters. Photo by Yuanhao Wayne Song.

What are the differences between celebrating Lunar New Year here as opposed to China?

David: There isn’t as much atmosphere here. In China, you set off fireworks and there’s so much to buy for the celebration. Here, we still have to go to work, children have to go to school, there’s no difference. [laughs]

How do you celebrate New Year in the United States?

Joyce: We make food. We have to eat fish, meat and dumplings.

David: We’re from northeast China, so we have to have dumplings.

Joyce: Of course, we give red envelopes full of money. And we get on the phone with their grandparents to wish them a happy New Year. What we used to do as kids, we still practice that.

You guys don’t set off fireworks here?

David: We don’t do that here. Only on 4th of July.

Joyce: We do buy those [party] poppers for the kids.

Irene Chen with her daughters. Photo by Yuanhao Wayne Song.

What does Year of the Dog mean to you?

[We] tell children about the Chinese Proverb “fortune comes with dog,” the origin stories of the year of the snake and rabbit [the years when her children were born], the story of “Monster Nian” [a legend where villagers would have to chase a monster away every winter by performing a lion dance, setting off firecrackers and wearing red] and why people eat rice cakes and dumplings.

How did you celebrate Lunar New Year this year?

We went to Las Vegas for the Chinese New Year. [We] let the children see the special Chinese traditional decorations in different hotels. Plus, together with friends here, we went dining at an Arcadia-based Chinese restaurant, and we played guitar and sang some “peasant songs.”

Gao Ning, from KAZN AM1300. Photo by Phoenix Tso.

What are the differences between celebrating Chinese New Year in China versus here?

In China, Taiwan or Hong Kong, there are a lot of activities. But in the U.S., in the early years, we didn’t have that, because we don’t have enough people.

Right now, you can see a lot of booths and we have some place to eat, some place to play and some place to have fun and lots of stores have some things for sale, so people like this kind of activities.

What are your favorite activities to do during this time?

I like to play chess, play cards, but now I don’t have time. [laughs] Maybe in the afternoon.

Does the Year of the Dog have any special meaning to you?

Yeah, the Year of the Dog is a good omen in China. Because dogs give you a feeling of being very faithful, very diligent and working hard, and also it will bring you prosperity.

For more sights and sounds, watch this video from David Muñoz.

Additional reporting/photography by Ting Sang and Yuanhao Wayne Song.

Interviews have been edited and condensed.

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