Lunar New Year celebration brings entertainment, tradition to Oroville – Chico Enterprise-Record

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OROVILLE — Like most new year’s celebrations, Lunar New Year represents fresh opportunities and wishes of good luck, prosperity and good health.

Oroville’s historical Chinese Temple, built in 1863, provided the backdrop for an event Sunday that attracted nearly 400 people. Most of them assembled with anticipation of the colorful and artistic performance of two dancing lions and loud percussion by Leung’s White Crane Dragon and Lion Dance Association of San Francisco.

Lunar New Year isn’t necessarily the same as the better-known Chinese New Year but is closely related, as both are based on the ancient Chinese lunar calendar, which marks the first new moon occurring between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20 on the Gregorian calendar. Thus, the “new year” period is different each year, not a fixed date of Jan. 1 as celebrated in Western cultures.

Plenty of oohs and ahhs came from the crowd as the lions performed intricate moves and gyrations that represented the blessing they offered to the attendees: prosperity, longevity and good health. Performers Timothy Tran and Ricardo Lopez were inside one lion, while Cindy Nguyen and Karina Quok were inside the other. Percussionists Peter Pham (drum) and Colin Nguyen and Donovan Nguyen (cymbals) provided plenty of rhythmic noise — loud, but with a definite purpose.

Pham, White Crane’s troupe leader, explained that the noise is designed to scare away evil spirits. Indeed, the lions and percussionists entered the temple for the finale of the performance with just that intention.

Pham said some performances utilize firecrackers, whose din is meant to frighten undesirable spirits.

Carson Harris, 3, and his mother, Brianna Chapman, both of Oroville, enjoy some of the historical displays inside the Chinese Temple in Oroville, California, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. Chapman said she and her son attended the 2022 Lunar New Year celebration at the temple and the boy has been looking forward to Sunday’s event, and the dancing animals, since that time. (Ed Booth/Enterprise-Record)

However, the crowd appeared to be thoroughly pleased with the performance and the intricate moves from the lions.

Brianna Chapman of Oroville and her 3-year-old son, Carson Harris, came to see the display. Carson was especially looking forward to the event, which his mother said is another way she enjoys exposing him to various cultures.

“We attended last year and thoroughly enjoyed looking at everything,” Chapman said as she and her son admired many of the historical displays inside the temple museum. “He loved seeing the dragons, and he watched the video of the dragons over and over.”

“They were red and yellow,” Carson enthusiastically recalled.

History and energy

Heather McCafferty, curator of the city-owned Chinese Temple, explained that the Oroville temple hosted many Lunar New Year celebrations in the 19th century.

“It was a big celebration in this area in the 1800s,” she said, “and we have several photos showing flags and things in our collection that were used in those events.”

McCafferty estimated the 2022 event’s attendance to be 400 people, and it was close to that figure this year.

“People get excited for the dances,” she said. “You can really feel the energy as it’s about to start.”

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