The sounds of people talking and children laughing rang across the parking lot. The mouth-watering aromas of cultural fried foods wafted through the air. Radiant lanterns detailed with flowers and hearts lined the walkway that directed people into the museum.
On Jan. 28, the Montclair Art Museum and the AAPI Montclair partnered up to host their Lunar New Year Celebration, coming together for the year of the rabbit. The festival hosted events both inside the museum and in the parking lot outside.
The Lunar New Year Celebration also partnered with many organizations such as Fort Lee Chinese Americans Community Association, Glen Ridge Diversity and Inclusion Association, Korean United Presbyterian Church of New Jersey and more. The festival showcased live performances from local artists and students from local schools. Family-friendly crafts were provided and festivalgoers were able to browse specialty merchandise from local vendors.
The Lunar New Year Celebration made an effort to educate the surrounding community on Asian culture and traditions. Spectators of all ages were given the opportunity to march in a dragon parade, where they got to hold a brightly colored dragon puppet that represented power, boldness and excellence. The traditional lion dance is a way of dance in China and other Asian countries in which performers mimic a lion’s movements in costumes to bring good luck and fortune.
Businesses and organizations had their own tables set up at every corner. Many of the businesses were local or Asian owned. The food truck section was the most crowded and featured many different vendors with a variety of ethnic foods. The lines extended far into the crowd as people eagerly tried new and old cuisine.
William Woo, a businessman representing retail brands in health and wellness, said he feels the event is vital to the Asian community. With the rise of Asian hate in the United States, Woo felt that events such as these are able to bring people together during a time of grievance.
“The importance of this event is bringing awareness to the growing Asian community, recently there were some shootings in California,” Woo said. “It’s important to have more Asians prevalent in the American community and government.”
The Asian community has recently witnessed two mass shootings among their community. On Jan. 23, a gunman opened fire at two separate businesses in Half Moon Bay, California, killing seven and leaving one person critically wounded. Due to harmful stereotypes after the pandemic, levels of Asian discrimination rose. According to a study by California State University, San Bernardino, anti-Asian hate crimes rose by almost 150% from 2019 to 2020.
Asian hate can have detrimental effects on many people. A survey done by the American Psychological Association found that Asian Americans who faced discrimination were more likely to deal with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression than those who had not.
The Montclair Art Museum hopes to promote peace with the Lunar New Year event and stop the spread of hate in light of the recent attacks on the Asian American community.
“Lunar New Year is a time of hope where family, friends and neighbors come together to rejoice in new beginnings as we look ahead to a peaceful and prosperous year,” the museum website said.
Mei Liu from Short Hills, New Jersey, talked about enjoying the food trucks and sampling the ale. She feels very involved in Montclair because her son attends Montclair Kimberley Academy.
“We hope this event goes on year after year so kids can feel the multicultural environment and experience all this great stuff,” Liu said.
The event included many events for kids such as arts and crafts and unique food options. They were able to bring crafts to life that had been passed down from many generations of Asian culture.
Margot Sage, the owner of Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, showcased a table of books curated for the Lunar New Year, written by Asians and Pacific Islanders.
“These events are important because they help you feel proud of the culture,” Sage said. “For those not of this culture it is important for them to learn something new while enjoying it.”