My Chinese American sister-in-law said that she had never seen a lunar new year parade or celebration, so when I found out about the festivities going on at The Americana at Brand in Glendale, California, I knew I had to take her and the rest of the family. On an unusually warm February Sunday, the outdoor shopping mecca had been turned into a festival of sorts, with red tents featuring yummy treats from 626 Night Market, traditional arts on display and even a craft area for the little ones. A giant Chinese lantern hovered over the main thoroughfare and crowds of people anxiously lined the central fountain green, eager to get a front row view of the cultural performances on tap.
Costumed stilt walkers, unicyclists and a super long gold dragon kicked off the festivities – it was like an Asian version of a typical American parade! On stage, Chinese ribbon dancers wowed the crowd, and rarely seen Mongolian bowl dancing elicited oohs and ahhs. The most adorable little Korean mask dancers – they must have been 6 or 7 years old – were a special treat, before a spectacular Chinese dragon dance with not one but three dragons (and the cutest mini dragon helmed by a little boy).
Between performances, kids lined up for some face painting, decorated wooden traditional instruments, made lotus lanterns and watched calligraphy artists as they created traditional Asian paintings just for them. Meanwhile, 626 Night Market served up their more popular offerings, including Mama Musubi, Ramen Burger and those ubiquitous potato swirl skewers. (Possibly the best part of the day, if you ask my 2-year-old nephew.)
No worries if you missed the celebration. If you’re in the L.A. area, you can get into the celebratory mood at The Americana at Brand and The Grove in Los Angeles, where iconic Chinese decor conceptualized by Stephen Stefanou of Venue Arts will be on display from now through March 1. Look for an oversized costumed God of Prosperity statue, brilliant red Chinese New Year lanterns and bright horticulture at The Americana at Brand, while hand-formed fan sculptures, brilliant red Chinese New Year lanterns, giant Moso bamboo poles, Qilin Foo Dogs and a bright horticulture garden can be seen at The Grove.
There will also be nightly fountain shows at 7 and 8 p.m., choreographed to “Give Me a Kiss” by Wan Fang. And on Lunar New Year, February 19, The Americana at Brand will turn its fountain red (for good luck, of course).
Additionally, guests of The Americana at Brand will receive traditional Chinese red envelopes, which may contain cash prizes or gift cards, through March 1, and look for special lunar new year shopping specials from stores like Nordstrom, Lucy Zahran & Co. and Sprinkles Cupcakes.
Feature photo courtesy of The Americana at Brand; other photos by Anna M. Park.