Having A Blast In Chinatown

Cymbals and beating drums fired up dancing lions and crowds along Hotel Street last Saturday, as onlookers offered dollar bills in hopes of receiving good luck and blessings in the Chinese New Year.

Friday - January 27, 2006
By Lisa Asato
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Lisa Chef and Karen Yang shop for good luck charms
Lisa Chef and Karen Yang
shop for good luck charms

Tom Nguyen of the Asia Arts Kung Fu Club
Tom Nguyen of the Asia Arts
Kung Fu Club

Cymbals and beating drums fired up dancing lions and crowds along Hotel Street last Saturday, as onlookers offered dollar bills in hopes of receiving good luck and blessings in the Chinese New Year.

“I’m hoping to someday be in a lion dance parade,” says Tejas Jhaveri, who wore a blue Chinese costume, complete with cap and braid, which his mom, Amita, had just bought for $10 in Chinatown. Jhaveri, who’s 7, glowed with excitement as he posed for a picture with the lions.

“I like the colors and their faces ... and my favorite color of all of them are the green ones and the gold ones.”

Peter Leong, originally of Singapore and now of Honolulu, says he offered a lion a dollar “for luck for the year.” His biggest hope for 2006 is to receive his doctorate in communication and information sciences from the University of Hawaii. The 39-year-old says he tries to make it to the Chinatown parade every year.

“I’m Chinese so this is one way for me to actually connect with my culture,” he says, “because living in America, I love celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, and all those major holidays, but this is one time a year I get to celebrate and feel that I’m Chinese.”


According to the lunar calendar, Chinese New Year falls on Saturday, and marks the start of the Year of the Dog.

Macy Wong shows Timothy Parish (center) what he was looking for — a lucky green frog charm for his sister’s cell phone
Macy Wong shows Timothy Parish (center) what
he was looking for — a lucky green frog charm
for his sister’s cell phone

Chinese New Year festivities continue this weekend with the 57th Annual Narcissus Festival Chinatown Open House on Friday and Saturday. It will feature lion dances from 6 to 9 Friday night on Maunakea Street, with the main performance at 7 at the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii’s headquarters at 42 N. King St. A bazaar will be held both days, from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m Saturday at the Chinatown Cultural Plaza.

“We want to invite the entire public to come down to Chinatown because there are going to be a variety of events for the entire family - foods to eat ... fireworks, lion dances, kung fu demonstrations, and best of all, it’s free,” says Alvin Wong, president-elect of the chamber, which is organizing the Open House.


“So come down early, find some parking, and just walk around Chinatown and enjoy the entire environment.”

Miss Chinatown 2006 Lisa Wong watches as second princess Shirley Lam fees the lion
Miss Chinatown 2006 Lisa Wong watches as second
princess Shirley Lam fees the lion

For the first time here, Chinese New Year festivities were coordinated by three Chinese nonprofits: the Chinese chamber; United Chinese Coalition, which held a two-day festival last weekend at the Chinatown Cultural Plaza; and Chinatown Merchants Association, which organized last Saturday’s parade and block party, known as the Honolulu Centennial Night in Chinatown.

The daylong block party stretched along Maunakea Street from King to Beretania streets - one extra block this year - and attracted an estimated 30,000 people, says Gifford Chang of the merchants association. Chang says that’s a 30 percent increase from last year, and he attributes the increase to the coalition’s efforts to work together and cross-promote.

Those who attended Saturday’s street fair were offered various treats: gau, a New Year pudding; black sesame dessert, served warm and runny like sweetened soup; and in the style of the American carnival - corn on the cob with browned husks torn back - and sweet, purple cotton candy.

At the corner of Maunakea and Pauahi streets, Koala Moa rotisserie chicken sent a plume of smoke skyward, and kal bi, pork chops and steaks were fired up. Down the street, the Church of Scientology of Hawaii offered free stress tests.

The Wong Kong Har Tong<br />
Society marches in the parade
The Wong Kong Har Tong
Society marches in the
parade

And not too far away, vendor Clinton Wong sold everything from fiber optic wands for kids to zodiac wall hangings to narcissus plants, considered the ultimate New Year flowers. “It’s supposed to only bloom for those who are good at heart and take care of people,” he says.

Of all his offerings, he says, “The charms seem to be the hottest seller ... because they’re for good luck and prosperity.”

Clinton’s wife, Macy, a native of Hong Kong, has some insight on the new year. “I know this year 2-0-0-6 is a good year for marriage. That’s why many people are planning to get married this year, even my brother,” she says, adding that it’s also an auspicious year for giving birth.

“In Hong Kong, the marriage registry is all fully booked already throughout the whole year.”

Meanwhile, Summer and Brandon Fergerstrom of Kaneohe strolled past the Wongs’ booth with their son, Jordin Thompson. They came to see the parade and the lion dances and were looking for something good to eat. The couple married and moved out on their own last year, and Summer’s wish for the new year was simple, yet grand. “We’re really just hoping for another wonderful good luck year. That’s all anybody can really ask for.”

For event and parking information, www.chinatownhi.com

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