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News / Business / Clark County Business

Clark County in its Lunar New Year phase: Locals join millions around the world in celebrations

By Sarah Wolf, Columbian staff writer
Published: February 15, 2024, 6:24pm

Locals are joining millions around the world celebrating the Year of the Dragon at Lunar New Year festivals that will last until later this month. In China, the celebration is known as the Spring Festival; in Vietnam, it’s Tet; and in Korea, it’s Seollal.

About 32 percent of Clark County’s foreign-born population comes from Asia, according to the latest American Community Survey from 2022.

“Lunar New Year is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world,” said Laramie Dorris, co-owner of Small Eats, which serves up Taiwanese street food weekly at the Vancouver Farmers Market.

The celebration starts on the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ends 15 days later on the first full moon. The dates vary slightly, usually falling sometime between late January and mid-February, according to an article from the Associated Press.

Each year honors an animal from the Chinese, or Vietnamese, zodiac. The cycle of time is measured by a circle of 12 animals — the rat, ox (or buffalo in Vietnam), tiger, rabbit (or cat in Vietnam), dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

The celebration focuses on welcoming all things good and prosperous and removing bad luck.

Many traditions are associated with the holiday — red lanterns, fireworks, red envelopes, parades, lion and dragon dances and traditional food, such as dumplings and “long-life noodles.”

Small Eats is hosting a Lunar New Year pop-up restaurant in downtown Vancouver. The pop-up started Sunday but will run again 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. the next two Sundays, Feb. 18 and 25, at Nonavo Pizza, 110 W. Sixth St.

Dee Chow co-owns Small Eats with her husband, Dorris.

Chow, of Asian ancestry, remembers as a child going to her family members’ houses to collect red envelopes and make dumplings together.

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One of the dishes Small Eats is serving up channels this tradition. Diners can make their own Taiwanese salad roll.

While Dorris’ family didn’t celebrate the holiday, he went on annual field trips to the festival at Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden.

The couple said they wanted to bring something to customers they don’t normally see, with a big spread of some traditional dishes and some designed around the year’s zodiac animal.

This year, Small Eats’ pop-up will serve Dragon Well Tea and scratch-made dragon fruit rice dumplings.

Several events have been or are scheduled to mark Lunar New Year locally.

Three Creeks Community Library in Salmon Creek hosted an event in January. Vancouver Mall hosted one Saturday.

The mall handed out lucky red envelopes and integrated traditional storytelling and calligraphy into its celebration. Hundreds also gathered to watch the traditional lion dance performed by the White Lotus dance group.

Tracy Peters, senior general manager at Vancouver Mall, said the shopping center began celebrating the holiday in 2021 and has worked to grow the event since.

“In Clark County, we have a diverse set of cultures,” Peters said. “An event like Lunar New Year gives everyone the opportunity to learn more about Asian heritage and customs while enjoying an incredibly beautiful and educationally enriched experience.”

The Vancouver Chinese Association is hosting a ticketed Vancouver Lunar New Year Gala on Sunday at Skyview High School. Admission is $15 for adults. Dinner and games are set to begin at 5 p.m. with a performance following at 7 p.m.

Washington State University Vancouver is hosting a Lunar New Year Celebration at 4 p.m. Thursday with food, bingo and a performance by the White Lotus dance group.

Lunar New Year could soon become officially recognized by Washington. The state House of Representatives passed House Bill 2209 to do just that Jan. 31. The bill needs approval from the state Senate.