San Ramon City Center celebrates Lunar New Year festivities

Grace Zhao, Opinions Editor

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  • One of the event announcers hands out red packets to eager children at the end of the performances.

  • Popular Vietnamese restaurant The Slanted Door serves smoked BBQ pork buns to hungry attendees.

  • A lion’s head, used with bravado in traditional Chinese lion dances, is one of the many props surrounding the stage.

  • Audience members wore red, a lucky color in China, for the Lunar New Year celebration ringing in the Year of the Rabbit on Sunday Jan. 22 at the San Ramon City Center.

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On Jan. 22, San Ramon City Center rang in the Year of the Rabbit with a series of dances, songs and other performances to celebrate a new year of the zodiac calendar. For many East and Southeast Asian cultures, the holiday is a time to reunite with family and thank each other with food and red packets. In San Ramon, the event took place in City Center Bishop Ranch’s Alexander Square, boasting jam-packed crowds on the green and across the upper-level balconies.

Cultural performance groups such as Hansamo, Zithers Academy and Zhiyin Choir were all benchmarks of the event. Groups young and old representing Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese cultures numbered the stage, each putting their own spin on Lunar New Year festivities.

Similar to their performances at October’s Culture in the Community event, Hansamo’s Pungmilnori team hailed the crowds with traditional Korean folk music complemented by wind and percussion instruments and rhythmic dancing, while Zithers Academy filled the square with the plucked harmonies of traditional Chinese guzhengs.

Other groups like Xiaopei Chinese Dance featured more modern dances, as performers in black and white costumes moved in sharp, confident lines to sultry Chinese pop music.

Meanwhile, a Vietnamese singing family group entertained the audience with soaring ballads and peppy songs in Vietnamese and English, connecting the Lunar New Year celebration to the Year of the Cat, which is honored by the Vietnamese zodiac calendar instead of the rabbit.

“One day I’ll touch your soil / One day I’ll finally know your soul / One day I’ll come to you / To say hello… Vietnam,” a young member of the family group sang in a powerful rendition of “Hello Vietnam” by Pham Quynh Anh.

The event was an overall warm and festive way to ring in, for many cultures, the more exciting “new year” of 2023.

Officials such as California Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan and Vice Mayor Sridhar Verose noted the importance of celebrating the diverse cultural makeup of the city, which is known for its large immigrant population, with public events such as Sunday’s Lunar New Year event. Speakers took turns wishing the crowd luck, longevity and positivity.

“I see a wonderful city of red out here, bright vibrant colors,” San Ramon City Council member Mark Armstrong said as one of the many speakers who prefaced the event. “It really reflects the cultural diversity of this community.”