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Approximately 1.5 billion people across the globe are gearing up to celebrate one of the biggest holidays in East Asian cultures remotely, a far cry from the typical crowd-gathering festivities that usually accompany this day. Lunar New Year 2021 has arrived and the traditional forms of celebration are not as feasible with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In Orange County, all three major Tet festivals have been canceled: the Little Saigon Westminster Tet Parade, the Little Saigon Tet Parade in Garden Grove, and the UVSA Tet Festival at the OC Fairgrounds. Organizers for all three events are hoping to bring back live festivities next year.

This year, the Lunar New Year begins on Feb. 12 and represents the first new moon of the lunisolar calendars, which is followed by many East Asian countries including China, Vietnam and South Korea. Standard practices include festivals, huge family get-togethers, gifting red envelopes of cash and watching fireworks.

Even though most celebrations will be taking place through online platforms this year, this holiday can still be just as special. Below are some options to celebrate the Year of the Ox virtually.

Bowers Museum: Virtual Chinese New Year Festival

Although Orange County museums remain closed indoors due to the county being in the state-designated purple tier, some like the Bowers Museum have adapted with online events and exhibitions. The Bowers Museum has been holding online tours, lectures and other virtual festivals for holidays like Dia de los Muertos.

For Chinese New Year you can join the museum’s Facebook livestream on Sunday, Feb. 14 and 28 at 11 a.m. Join the fun and watch performers, art making and learn some delicious food recipes. You can download the festival project now to prepare ahead and tag your artwork at #bowersfestival.

The Bowers Museum’s virtual Lunar New Year festival features an art project that participants can do at home while watching online.

The Bowers is also hosting a Chinese Paper Fans workshop on Feb. 25. Participants will paint a watercolor landscape on a paper fan. You should reserve your kit by Friday, Feb. 19 and pick it up between 10-11 a.m. on Feb. 25.

Kits are free for members 62 and older, and $7 for all others. If you have questions, you may call 714-567-3678 or email mlopez@bowers.org.

Santa Ana Library Craft Kits

Starting Feb. 8 through the 12th, stop by either the Main or Newhope libraries in Santa Ana and pick up a fully loaded craft kit for your child. Let your child ring in the new year in a creative way with a “Take It & Make It” kit, which includes craft materials and special treats. Throughout the week the Santa Ana Library’s Instagram page will be providing step-by-step tutorials on how to assemble a few of the crafts included in the kits such as paper lanterns, which are traditional decorations to celebrate the Lunar New Year with.

The kits will only be distributed during their curbside hours, which are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and while supplies last. Kits are limited to one per child and are available for all youth up to the eighth grade.

Smithsonian Lunar New Year Virtual Celebration

This year the Renwick Gallery, a branch of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, is holding its own virtual celebration for the Lunar New Year in collaboration with the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States of America and part of Lunar New Year DC. They are presenting streamed video performances and demonstrations of traditional Chinese crafts and traditions on Feb. 13. You need to register for the event to view their content.  You can also visit the SAAM Family Zone for coloring pages and other supplemental videos.

Pacific Symphony Virtual Lunar New Year Concert

Though the Pacific Symphony has seen the cancellation of a year’s worth of in-person events and concerts since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it remains engaged and immersive by continuing its tradition of ringing in Lunar New Year with an exciting concert, featuring prominent musical professionals. The symphony’s “Year of the Ox” live-streamed program will be hosted by music director Carl St.Clair and actor Ron Banks. Viewers can access the virtual experience on their Facebook or YouTube, and tune in to witness the work of renowned artists like pipa soloist, vocalist and composer Min Xiao-Fen and acclaimed pianist Fei-Fei Dong.

The virtual performance will take place on Feb. 12 at 8 p.m.

Dancers perform with the Pacific Symphony and Pacific Chorale during the 2020 concert celebrating the Lunar New Year.

Pacific Symphony Virtual Lantern Festival

Later in the month, the Pacific Symphony will be following its Year of the Ox concert with a more inclusive online event that the whole family can appreciate. The Virtual Lantern Festival is a celebration that takes place 15 days after the Lunar New Year, marking the first full moon of the lunar calendar.

“The act of lighting and appreciating lanterns is a way for people to let go of the burdens of their old selves and express their best wishes for themselves and their families for the future,” writes Jean Oelrich, Pacific Symphony’s director of marketing and communications, on the Pacific Symphony blog.

The immersive virtual experience will take place on Feb. 27 from 10-11:45 a.m., two weeks after the Lunar New Year concert.

Flower Festival at the Asian Garden Mall

The Asian Garden Mall in Westminster, also known as the heart of Orange County’s Little Saigon, hosts a flower festival every year around this time to usher in the Lunar New Year. Previously viewed as an exotic escapade into Vietnamese Lunar New Year traditions, this year’s event serves more as a reminder that the seasons are still passing as we continue to learn how to navigate through the pandemic. Moreover, the existence of any in-person event or gathering is another reminder that social distance doesn’t have to equate social isolation. A huge aspect of Lunar New Year celebrations is symbolic decor, which is why the Asian Garden Mall attracts families to its flora every year to serve that exact purpose.

Though the mall’s flower festival concluded on Feb. 10, holiday flowers and other Lunar New Year decor can still be purchased from vendors inside the mall.

Kim Pham is a writing fellow for Voice of OC Arts & Culture. She can be reached at kimhphm@gmail.com.

Crystal Henriquez is an intern for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. She can be reached at crystalh774@gmail.com.

Voice of OC Arts & Culture senior editor Richard Chang contributed to this report.

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