Today I’m reviewing an event that’s worthwhile for family and friends alike. The Chinese American Museum in Downtown LA celebrated the Lantern Festival last Saturday with acrobatics, lion dances, arts and crafts, food, and more. The Lantern Festival is an important holiday that marks the end of Chinese New Year festivities, and what better way to honor it than for CAM to hold it outside in El Pueblo Plaza, the site of LA’s original Chinatown. It was a joyous event that recognizes Chinese and Chinese-American cultures, and it was entertaining and educational for people of all ages and ethnicities.
Hosted by “Kung Fu Panda 2” and “ER” star April Hong, the daughter of renowned actor James Hong, the stage in El Pueblo Plaza outside the museum was constantly filled with excitement. Highlights included graceful children dancers, a magician who could change his masks in the blink of an eye and balance a fragile teapot off a stick that he’s holding with his mouth, and a spirited flutist who played Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and hula hooped simultaneously. The Lantern Festival certainly wouldn’t be complete without an energetic lion dance. Demonstrating the freedom of the lions, the lion dancers refused to stay confined on the stage and often jumped near the spectators for a more intimate experience. They also provided an interactive involvement with children after the opening.
CAM made sure that the children benefitted the most from the Lantern Festival. Boys and girls were given the opportunity to play cymbals to support the lion dancers later during the day. There were booths offering free face paintings as well as workshops in making and using abacuses. Within the museum, kids could learn to fold origami, create paper lanterns, and puppets, and write calligraphy with a brush. Red envelopes with candies were often given out as rewards. It’s a fun and exciting way to encourage children of all ethnicities and their parents to learn about and immerse in another culture.
For those wishing to learn more about Chinese American history, the Chinese American Museum showcased its exhibits to the public for free (with a suggested donation). The “Sun Wing Wo General Store and Herb Shop” exhibit is a recreation of an actual herb store that serves as a wonderful introduction to Eastern medicine. “Journey” provides an image-filled history lesson on Chinese immigration, a topic especially important for all Chinese Americans to know so they can understand the sacrifices their ancestors made to guarantee them a better future. The “Breaking Ground” exhibit is my favorite because it showcases the impact of Chinese Americans in a subject I’m unfamiliar with, architecture. It’s only through this exhibit that I realize how Chinese American architects contributed to the design of LAX and NORMS Restaurant.
Speaking of food, three food trucks (India Jones Chow Truck, the Mighty Boba Truck, and Fluff Ice) were present in the event. I ordered an original fluff from the Fluff Ice Truck with strawberry, mango, and condensed milk. It reminded me of a cross between shaved ice and fruit yogurt with the condensed milk providing a sweetness and thickness that’s comparable to honey. They also offered familiar Asian toppings like red bean, egg pudding, taro pudding, and lychee. I suggest CAM deliver more food trucks in the future because three trucks simply cannot accommodate so many people. It’s also beneficial if Chinese meals were offered in addition to the snacks to teach the public another aspect of Chinese culture.
The Lantern Festival was an entertaining and informative event that opened Chinese and Chinese-American culture to the public. Complete with performances and arts and crafts, it’s an event I highly recommend to parents and children alike.
The Chinese American Museum is located on 425 North Los Angeles Street in Downtown. The El Pueblo Plaza is just outside. Public transportation is extremely convenient since the museum is near Union Station where major bus lines and trains run through, including #33, 40, 42, 439, 442, 485, 699, 701, 704, 728, 733, 740, and 745. The parking lot across from the museum charged $8 that day, but cheaper parking can be found in Little Tokyo.
Our other staff writer Golda also attended the Community Manager Yelp Event, “All the Fly Hunnies,” with fellow blogger, Holly Winn. You can read about that in Holly’s blog, “The Social Bug.”
So what was your favorite event in the Lantern Festival?
Until next time,