by Peter Mertz
DENVER, the United States, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- Across America's West, the Year of the Ox was ushered in by a feast of virtual offerings that showcased Chinese culture and tradition as never seen before.
The new virtual menu ranged from a Friday online Zoom wellness session in downtown Denver at Chi Wellness, The Center of Qigong, to a stunning website with some 100 links and interactive media, launched by Phoenix Chinese Week.
Despite COVID-19 restrictions heavily impacting the restaurant and entertainment industries, the 2021 Chinese Year of the Ox will be long remembered as showcasing tremendous creativity, resourcefulness, and effort.
Las Vegas, that has emerged recently as one of the hottest places to enjoy the Chinese New Year (CNY), started the virtual display on Tuesday with a lengthy video hosted by 2021 Derek Uehara, the host of the 10th annual Chinese New Year in the Desert.
Last year, Virgin Atlantic ranked Las Vegas in the top nine places in America to celebrate the Lunar New Year, and Financial Advisor called Chinese New Year in the Desert one of the country's top eight CNY events.
"While many restaurants across the nation have been affected by the economic downturn, AAPI (Asian-American Pacific-Islander) owned restaurants have been hit particularly hard," said CNY in the Desert Executive producer Jan-ie Low, who "encouraged people to celebrate the Lunar New Year by supporting AAPI-Owned restaurants and businesses."
Across America last year, restaurants were ambushed by the pandemic, with 84 percent of owners stating that COVID-19 had a negative impact on their business, and 35 percent were not optimistic that their businesses would survive, according to an ACE study cited by Low.
In all three big western cities inland from the Pacific Coast - Denver, Phoenix and Las Vegas - officials asked local residents to support restaurants during the CNY.
Other COVID-related obstacles facing Sin City's AAPI community included racism and xenophobia, restaurant owners noted, with many eager to put the pandemic and 2020 behind them for good.
"2020 was a challenging year ... we are all looking forward to better things in 2021," said Las Vegas Mayor pro tem Stavros Anthony on the CNY in the Desert video, who compared the challenges presented by COVID-19 as requiring the "calm, patience of the ox," to overcome.
"So, I think it's fitting in The Year of the Ox - it's a strong and sturdy animal - it puts its head down and it just goes to work," Uehara told local KTNV news Channel on Tuesday.
"Much like the steady ox, this is the year to stay grounded and focus our collective effort and energy on the tasks ahead to accomplish the goals for recovery and a productive year," Meng Ansley of Phoenix Chinese Week told Xinhua.
Like her Chinese-American neighbors to the north in Nevada, Ansley is relieved that 2020 is over.
Two years ago, Phoenix's three-day CNY celebration brought some 30,000 participants, and Ansley is hopeful the elaborate virtual website launched on Friday will be similarly received.
The Year of the Ox Phoenix site is a smorgasbord of virtual offerings, with 25 separate links and another dozen options inside many - for some 100 immediate treats.
Phoenix Chinese Week's Virtual Stage, Food and Children's Pavilions are chock-full of interactive and instructional videos and creative games for kids, including chopstick challenges, learning how to write in Chinese, and paper folding craft classes.
On the virtual stage, videos introduce the Art of the Lion Dance, and a number of stunning, beautifully choreographed traditional Chinese dances.
The Food Pavilion offers a dozen more detailed videos on making Dim Sum, Wontons, and even how to make traditional Lunar New Year desserts such as walnut and almond cookies and sesame balls.
The Togetherness Tray - a snack and dessert tray of mixed food, best embodies the spirit of the Chinese New Year, observed by an estimated 3 billion people worldwide - the Chinese family tradition of getting together for the Spring Festival.
"A big part of celebrating Chinese New Year is visiting relatives and friends, and The Tray of Togetherness is used to welcome visitors and bring people together," the Phoenix web site states, as pictures of delicious desserts are seen, including coconut, melon, and sesame candies.
"To all Chinese around the world, Chinese New Year is like Thanksgiving in U.S. culture - it is the time to get home and reunite with family and friends," said Alex Li, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Las Vegas-based Chubby Cattle restaurants.
Chubby Cattle, a national restaurant franchise "inspired by Mongolian, Tibetan, and Chinese philosophies of medicine and healing," started in Las Vegas and expanded its successful cuisine to Denver, Dallas and now Philadelphia.
"Chinese New Year is celebrated for sixteen days, from the New Year's Eve to the Lantern Festival. The dinner on New Year's eve, which we called reunion dinner is extremely important to the Chinese. All family members must come back for the feast," Li noted.
Some of the traditional dishes served at the reunion dinner have "auspicious symbolism," according to Li, "for example, dumplings is a classic, lucky food for a new year, and is made to look like Chinese silver ingots, which symbolizes wealth," he added.
"Another dish that's a 'must have,' is sweet rice ball, which the pronunciation of it in Chinese is 'tang yuan' which sounds like reunion in Chinese, and it symbolizes family being together; and it's a dish that we eat on the Lantern Festival." he noted. Enditem