by Xinhua writers Huang Heng, Julia Pierrepont III
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- "We are just three days away from Chinese Lunar New Year! It was fun to share the celebration with a lion dance at our board meeting today," Kathryn Barger, a Los Angeles county supervisor in the United States, tweeted Tuesday morning.
Earlier at the Los Angeles County's Administration Hall in the state of California, two traditional Chinese southern lion puppets regaled the mixed crowd of officials, representatives and attendees from the Chinese community as they pranced, leapt, and wagged their giant tails to bestow good luck and prosperity on the audience. [ The lion puppets were operated by two local Chinese dancers dressed in colorful purple and yellow costumes, in honor of the city's professional basketball team the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, based on the Chinese lunar calendar, is historically a time to honor traditional Chinese deities and family ancestors. This year, it officially begins Friday.
Barger is no stranger to the festival and the lion dance.
Last Saturday, after enjoying a similar lion dance at the historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, Barger told Xinhua, "Happy New Year! I wish you good health, good fortune and great prosperity in the coming new year."
Across the Western states, packs of colorful Chinese lions paraded through Chinatown to celebrate the Year of the Dog, racing in and out of Chinese restaurants and dancing in the streets and in many other places where Chinese people rarely frequented forty years ago.
Last Friday in downtown Denver, capital of Colorado State, the Nathan Yip Foundation, which funds educational projects for children in rural Rocky Mountains and in China, transformed their three-story Civic Center Building into an exotic Chinese market for the night.
Under the 12-meter ceilings of the neoclassic building, adorned by vivid crimson drapes, lanterns and banners in typical Chinese New Year fashion, more than 500 people joined in, celebrating the lion dances and cheering in delight.
In Salt Lake City of Utah, students from Calvin Smith Elementary School in Taylorsville performed their own lion dance on Monday in the state Capitol building to commemorate the Chinese New Year.
Michael Marcrum, who taught the celebratory dance to his students, was quoted by the local Desert News as saying that Chinese culture had value to all Utah residents.
"It's ancient culture from China ... it's something that's so traditional and important," Marcrum said. "We want people to be able to celebrate multiple cultures."
Other politicians shared this opinion.
"This is a great tradition that allows us to celebrate the coming of the (Chinese) New Year and the rich culture and diversity," Barger said, adding that "What's great about the Chinese American culture here in California is that they are bringing their culture into our communities."
Former California State Senator Bob Huff, who is launching a run for U.S. Congress, told Xinhua, "California is such a diverse community, with over 50 languages and dialects, but we are stronger and more competitive when we integrate and learn from other cultures."
In January, two California State Senators, Richard Pan and Scott Wiener, introduced a bill to the state legislature. The bill, if passed, would officially recognize the Chinese Lunar New Year as a day of special significance in California and would require the governor to honor the festival each year.
"Lunar New Year is celebrated by millions of people in communities across California," said the state's assembly member Phil Ting last month. "It's time to honor this tradition and its contribution to California, just like other important holidays, by officially recognizing it as a day of special significance."
Barger told Xinhua she was aware that the legislation was being sponsored in California to make Chinese New Year a state-recognized holiday.
"That tells you just how deep our (Chinese community) connections are," she said.