‘We try to make it a warm holiday’: Spokane Chinese Association celebrating Lunar New Year differently in the pandemic

SPOKANE, Wash – Every year families gather to celebrate the Lunar New Year, and for the second year in a row, the Spokane Chinese Association has had to change its traditional celebrations.

Eastern Asian countries like China, Vietnam, Korea and more go off of the lunisolar calendar. 2021 is the year of the ox, which in the Chinese culture represents health, strength and prosperity.

That’s been tough to feel in the last year of the pandemic.

“It’s very hard, I just have to say,” said Weiling Zhu, the president of the Spokane Chinese Association.

It’s hard because in the Chinese culture, Lunar New Years means coming together and celebrating as one family, one community and one country.

Traditionally, there would be large gatherings with a lot of food and many different festive activities. Zhu says they try to normally have a dumpling feast, too. But of course, with the pandemic, they couldn’t do all the normal things they usually do.

Last year, right before Lunar New Year, the Spokane Chinese Association had to cancel all its events because of the uncertainty with the virus.

This year, they were able to plan some safe activities. Zhu says they’ll be getting together over Zoom and will be watching a compilation of all their traditional performances from prior years.

Teenagers with the association also put together 70 gift baskets to deliver to the elderly and those in need.

“We try to make it a warm holiday and a happy season for our community,” she said told 4 News Now.

It’s all during a time where things may feel a little dark with the pandemic. Days and weeks before the Lunar New Year, more Asians are being attacked in racist crimes in other parts of the country.

Zhu tells 4 News Now she is not experiencing that here in Spokane. However, she hears about those attacks and knows about them.  She’s also hearing about the blame being put on the Chinese community because that’s where the virus originated from.

“It doesn’t matter where the virus is from, Spanish virus, or the virus from China. It doesn’t matter, because we’re all victims,” she continued. “We should be seeing how we can help each other instead of trying to condemn any of the population.”

Instead of focusing on the negative and all the restrictions many are facing now with the pandemic, Zhu hopes the thought of a new year and celebrating it together in some sort of capacity will help.

“We’re doing all this in hope that we can bring the joy to the pandemic, despite all of the hard times we’re going through,” she said.