By VINCE REMBULAT
For nearly 40 years, the Chinese Cultural Society of Stockton has set aside one day in early March to promote cultural pride, traditions, and customs with a Chinese New Year Celebration. This year’s celebration will be held March 4, or the Year of the Dog.
The dog is the 11th in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac sign. The Years of the Dog include those born in 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994 and 2006.
The New Year Festival in Stockton will again feature Chinese folk dancing, lion dancing, traditional songs, Tai Chi and Kung Fu demonstrations, a fashion show, a cooking demonstration, food court, calligraphy, art and even a children’s workshop.
It kicks off at 10 a.m. with a parade – rain or shine – featuring two professional lion dance performances, going from the Weber Point Events Center, traveling north on Center Street, one block along East Miner Avenue, north on El Dorado Street to East Oak Street, and back on Center, going south for three blocks.
The significance of the lion dance is to chase the evil spirits away.
From there, the festivities will continue inside the Civic Auditorium, 525 N. Center St. Included will be a variety of vendors, kid’s zone, and a food court featuring dim sum, a style of Chinese cuisine prepared as small bite-sized portions of food.
Musical performances by the two-string instrument erhu and the bamboo flute bangdi players along with martial arts demonstrations and other entertainment will also take place on stage inside the Civic Auditorium through 5 p.m.
The history of the parade and festival traces back to the mid-1970s when the City of Stockton called out various ethnic groups to participate in a city-wide celebratory parade.
The Chinese Benevolent Association and the founding members of the Chinese Cultural Society of Stockton then got together, putting together a successful event in the hall of the Confucius Church, which set the framework for what was to follow.
The hall was filled with booth featuring culinary delights, Chinese vegetables and other cultural offerings.
But it was the entertainment that was the highlight.
This included the newly formed Chinese Folk Dance Troupe of Stockton coupled with locals modeling the elaborate Chinese fashions, martial arts and cooking demonstrations, and, of course, the lion dances.
It didn’t take long before the Chinese New Year Festival outgrew the Confucius Church, with the event moving to the Civic Auditorium.
The first parade was held in 2002 with a downtown route following that of the historic locations of the early Chinese pioneers. The festival, however, was held on a separate day.
The two were combined in 2009 when the Chinese Cultural Society of Stockton was informed that the Civic Auditorium was undergoing much-needed repairs and was unavailable that March. Since then, the parade and festival were held on the same day, attracting a diverse crowd from throughout the area, sharing in this cultural experience.