Lunar New Year festival wakes up Seattle’s Chinatown international district

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The Year of the Tiger brought together hundreds of people in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District. The community celebrated a festival on Saturday recognizing the Lunar New Year.

“Today’s celebration is something of a wake-up call for many communities,” said David Leong, owner of Northwest Kung Fu and Fitness School.

The Lunar New Year Festival was CID’s first major event since pre-COVID-19. The festival has been delayed since the start of this year as the number of positive cases was high. As the crowd grew at the Saturday event, people were not only celebrating the New Year, but also getting in on the community and helping to bring the neighborhood back to life.

“I can feel everyone’s energy just kind of revitalizing the area once again. And I feel like everyone’s just in this together, and they’re moving forward and trying to move past what we went through,” said Cal, who attended the festival in cosplay with friends.

“COVID has been really difficult with our kids. Just being in a sense of community and being around their age and people in general. So to see him see so many people, again kind of normal, is new to him,” Icha said. Stephanie, who attended the event with her family.

February 1 marked the Lunar New Year for 2022. Traditionally, the holiday is celebrated for 16 days.

The event featured a parade, martial arts demonstrations, food, music, and vendors. The success of the participation was welcomed after a difficult few years for the International District.

The COVID-19 outbreak has sparked hatred against the Asian community. This affected tourism in the area and even forced some businesses to close. Many people who work and live in the historic district were unsure of their future.

“[There was] a period of time when we really couldn’t do anything. There was such uncertainty. Every time you walk through your door, it’s uncertain. You have a business, you don’t know what the day will look like. So all we had control was to open the doors and close them at night, to come home after work,” Leong said.

Crime, violence and graffiti have also overwhelmed the neighborhood, issues the area is still trying to overcome. Last Wednesday, a man was shot and killed at the CID. It’s an unusual activity for a community that has lived in this part of Seattle for generations.

“It was just a peak of negative energy that caused everything to pile on top of each other. So it’s going to take a while for it to unravel,” Leong said. “Nothing is done, fixed or improved overnight. It takes time.”

Judging by the number of festival-goers, it seems the time is something people are willing to spend to help revitalize CID and celebrate what makes this neighborhood a cultural intersection of the city.

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“We want Seattle to be back to being the great city it is and will be back to being very soon. And we’re making good progress today,” Leong said. “People who smile, children, young people, old people, people from all walks of life, that’s community.”

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