Year of the Tiger: AsiaTown celebrates the Lunar New Year

Yesterday, Tuesday, Feb. 1 marked the beginning of the Lunar New Year—one of the most celebrated holidays in Asia and many Asian-American communities throughout the United States—and folks around Cleveland and in AsiaTown are observing the holiday through Feb. 15.

It’s the Year of the Tiger, the symbol of bravery, wisdom and strength. Revelers observing a time of reunion and rebirth kicked off the 15-day holiday yesterday with a community celebration outside of Emperor’s Palace on Rockwell Avenue that included firecrackers and the Lion Dance.

“The firecrackers scare away evil spirits to welcome good luck and good fortune,” explains Lisa Wong, president of OCA Greater Cleveland Chapter and co-founder of the Cleveland Asian Festival. She says there will be plenty to do in AsiaTown in the next two weeks and many virtual celebrations, both in Northeast Ohio and around the country.

This Saturday, Feb. 5, the celebration heats up, with a day full of events in AsiaTown. Notably, the Kwan Family Lion Dance Team will perform the traditional Chinese lion dance, as the team has done for the past 30 years.

Festivities kick off Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Asia Plaza, 2999 Payne Ave., with the Year of the Tiger Lunar New Year Celebration, featuring children’s activities, martial arts demonstrations, traditional Chinese music by Rosa Lee on the Guzheng and Janice Liu on Erhu. In the afternoon, Pacific Paradise Entertainment perform Polynesian dance demonstrations.

“They will teach people how to participate and try some of the dances, too,” says Wong. The Chinese Square Dance team and the Glory Drum Team of Cleveland will also perform.

Over at Li Wah, the Kwan Family Dance Team will perform the Kwan Lion Dance while diners enjoy dim sum. Wong says the restaurant stopped taking reservations for Friday, to make sure it could accommodate walk-in diners as well (the Saturday show at 11 a.m. is always first come, first served.

Lunar New Year Celebration, Asia PlazaWong says additional restaurants, like Szechuan Cafe and Ball Ball Waffle, are also nearby.  “If you can’t get into Li Wah, there are so many options available,” she says.

“These performances are high in demand,” says Wong of the Kwan family. “In a normal year, we’d have five times to see the Lion Dance, but this year we only have two performances at Asia Plaza this year.”

In AsiaTown, visitors are encouraged to shop and support the local businesses, says Wong, and Destination Cleveland is putting one of its #CLE signs next to the Park to Shop store.   

“We’re hoping people will dress up and take advantage of the photo opportunities,” she says. “Hopefully, there will be some great pictures being taken.”

Asian Town Center, 3820 Superior Ave., will host the Kwan Lion Dance Sunday at 12 p.m.

All staff and volunteers will be masked up, and visitors are encouraged to do the same. Wong says surgical mask will be available, free of charge, on Saturday.

Wong says RTA’s  Community Immunity Bus will be at East 30th Street and Payne Avenue on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., giving vaccines and boosters to anyone who wants them.

For a complete list of Lunar New Year events in AsiaTown and virtual events around Northeast Ohio and the United States, click here.

The Lunar New Year is all about having fun and bringing good luck for the upcoming year. “It’s eating, dancing, and entertainment,” says Wong. “In the Lunar New Year, you want to do the things you want to do for the rest of the year.”

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.