Chinese New Year celebrations aren’t over yet

By Qingwei Vivian Chen

Cooperating with Choose Chicago, the city’s tourism department, more than 15 partners are ready to help residents and visitors celebrate the Chinese New Year in Chicago. The city’s 10-day festival runs through Feb. 22.

“We are working to make sure that the citywide celebration becomes a much larger, broader program with events all over the city for people to enjoy,” said Melissa Cherry, Choose Chicago’s vice president for Cultural Tourism and Neighborhoods.

Chinese New Year, which fell on Feb. 8 this year, is one of the most important festivals for the Chinese community. To usher in the Year of the Monkey, Chicago, which includes one of the largest Chinatowns in North America, is celebrating its rich cultural traditions.

To welcome visitors during the festival, the Art Institute of Chicago is launching a new Chinese-language audio guide and brochure for Chinese-speaking visitors.

“It’s much more convenient for us to read. I have lived here for a long time and have read tons of English-language brochures or instructions. The Chinese-language brochure makes me feel like I’m back home in China, very warm and friendly,” said Min Li, a Chicagoan born in China who visited the Art Institute last week.

Beyond that, by developing a “Monkeying Around” self-guided mini-tour, the Art Institute of Chicago is calling on its troupe of in-house  monkeys to highlight the festival. By following the tour, visitors can find monkey figures in different types of art pieces at the museum.

“I think it’s important for us to start cultivating what it means to celebrate Chinese New Year in the U.S.,” said Orianna Cacchione, the curatorial fellow for Contemporary East Asian Art at the Art Institute. “China is becoming increasingly influential in the world. And I think it’s important that more Western institutions acknowledge China and Chinese culture.

“It’s an international holiday,” she said, comparing Chinese New Year to Christmas. “I don’t think it is so much a Chinese holiday. It’s now really an International holiday, like Christmas. It’s important for the museum to find different ways to celebrate Christmas and to do the same with Chinese New Year.”

Other festival events included Jackie Chan’s Long Yun Kung Fu Troupe in its Midwest debut Feb. 9 and 13 at the Logan Center on the University of Chicago’s Hyde Park campus.  With its heart-stopping moves, the group presented some of the best young martial artists from across China, each performer handpicked by movie star Jackie Chan. The ensemble has created a new art form that melds martial arts with elegant, traditional Chinese dance.

“I think many of you know that China is one of Chicago’s largest trading partners right now,” said Steve Koch, deputy mayor of Chicago, at the city’s Chinese New Year press conference earlier this month. “We are very delighted to have the opportunity to host what I think is going to be the largest Lunar New Year parade in the U.S. And I hope that leads to an increased flow of commerce and trade between Chicago and China.”

Chicago’s Chinese New Year celebration will conclude Feb. 22. The city’s Chinese Lunar New Year Parade was held Feb. 14 in Chinatown. Symphony Center will present a Chinese New Year concert Feb 21. On the last day of the celebration, visitors can head out to Navy Pier and join the Lantern Festival.

Meanwhile, retailers including stores such as Bloomingdale’s are celebrating Lunar New Year with Chinese-influenced decorations and special sales. More information about festival events can be found on the Choose Chicago website.

Photo at top: To honor the Year of the Monkey, Macy’s has decorated one of its State Street windows with monkey figures. (QingweiChen/MEDILL)