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The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Lunar New Year Bash ignites Pao Arts Center with cultural festivities

The Lunar New Year Bash, hosted by the Chinatown Project at the Pao Arts Center, attracts hundreds of people to celebrate the Year of the Dragon. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Lee / The Chinatown Project)

The Lunar New Year Bash on Feb. 24 drew hundreds of attendees to the Pao Arts Center, allowing them to immerse themselves in the vibrant environment full of cultural appreciation. 

The Chinatown Project, an organization founded in 2020 that aims to preserve Boston’s Chinatown’s culture through visual arts, advocacy, and grassroots community engagement, hosted the event. Attendees enjoyed art illustrations and designed and customized their own plants and envelopes while relishing Asian cuisines. 

“It’s pretty awesome. I like the food here,” said Kevvaughn English, a graphic designer from Boston who was invited by a friend. “I wanted to experience a different set of cultures and norms around the area because I have known about Chinatown since I was a little kid.”

The Pao Arts Center was divided into two parts: the left side of the venue had the event’s vendors and Asian cuisines, while the right side featured the center’s temporary exhibit called Lunchbox Moments, which showcases a particular experience many Asian Americans had growing up, where they brought traditional Asian meals to school and receive varied reactions from their classmates in the cafeteria.

The “Lunchbox Moments” exhibition by artist Amie Bantz is on display at Chinatown’s Pao Arts Center. (Feixu Chen/Beacon Correspondent)

“I think even some of the artwork here we were taking a look at is very connected to some childhoods,” said Patrick Wong, a local Bostonian who attended the bash.

English, who is a Jamaican immigrant, also complimented and related to the artwork.

“Part of the art installations also resonates with me,” he said. “ I’ve had people say insulting things about my culture too.”

Wong, who had never visited Pao Arts Center before the event, praised the bash and said he had a great experience.

“I think a lot of the vendors are really nice,” said Wong. “I know a lot of people at this event, and just walking around, I see friends I haven’t seen in a while.”

“The events and activities they are putting on, like designing Hong Bao (Red Envelope), have been really cool,” he added.

Hong Bao, also commonly known as the red envelopes containing cash, are more than just ordinary packets; they symbolize generosity and prosperity. Usually given by elders to youths or unmarried adults, it symbolizes blessings and fortune for the year ahead.

In addition to the rich cultural activities, the Lunar New Year Bash became a stage for vendors to bring their crafts to a larger platform.

“I always wanted to take my passion for illustration to a bigger platform, so this year, a big goal of mine is to expand into a store,” said Elaine Zhang from New York, who was selling her artwork at the bash. “I thought this was a great event to do because it’s in a community I love.”

Attendees have the opportunity to create their own personalized red envelopes at the Lunar New Year Bash. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Lee / The Chinatown Project)

Donna VoVo, a vendor who allowed attendees to decorate their own plant at the bash, heard about the event through her cousin.

“I also thought it was really cool that it was a Lunar New Year Bash, so I thought it would be great to sign up and allow attendees to customize a succulent plant like they would build a bear,” VoVo said.

Many enjoyed the energy, including Tyler Vu, a videographer for the Chinatown Project. 

“You get to network, and you get to see what the vibes are around town,” Vu said.

Alice Tang, a volunteer at the event, emphasized the importance of bringing Asians together to celebrate their heritage through events like the Lunar New Year Bash.

“Being able to gather together and see other people that have the same basis, we have the same culture and background,” Tang said. “Maybe our parents speak the same language; it’s just like being in a community that helps you feel at home.”

The event also attracted a diverse array of attendees.

“I feel like they’re really trying to bring a diverse crowd together and get more young people involved in their local community,” said Anh-Thao-Tran, an attendee of the bash. “I think they’re hoping to spread that sense of tradition and legacy through the young people.”

The Lunar New Year Bash, hosted by the Chinatown Project, features various local AAPI-owned businesses selling a wide range of products, from artwork to cat snacks. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Lee / The Chinatown Project)
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