Feature: Beverly Hills embraces new holiday tradition: Chinese Lunar New Year

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by Julia Pierrepont III

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- While scores of little white Christmas lights still twinkled along the streets of Beverly Hills on Friday night, the affluent Southern California city also embraced a new holiday tradition: Chinese Lunar New Year -- the Year of the Pig in the Chinese lunar calendar is just around the corner.

In the gilt-trimmed lobby of Beverly Hills' historic Saban Theater, gold-tasseled red lanterns, emblematic of Chinese New Year, swayed above the capacity crowd that had gathered to experience a taste of one of China's most important holidays.

"The best thing about this event is that it allows us to bring China's wonderful culture and traditions to Beverly Hills," said event chairperson, Julie Wagner of the Beverly Hills Club.

"It gives Beverly Hills residents a feel for what the Chinese are all about and of the beauty, history, art, and culture they have to share with us," she added.

For the last eight years, Beverly Hills has been honoring the Chinese New Year by hosting a special VIP celebration that's grown in scope and popularity every year. Last year, the demand for tickets was so great, the event was expanded to two days to accommodate the anticipated more than 1,000 attendees.

John Mirisch, former mayor and now vice mayor of Beverly Hills, said his city enjoys a great relationship with China. "We welcome the Chinese, and think sharing some of their interesting cultural experiences with American audiences right here in Beverly Hills makes us understand and appreciate each other more," he added with a smile, "And it's a great excuse for a party!"

Said Alan and Sandy Kroll, two local residents in their 70s who had visited China many years before, told Xinhua, "We live in Beverly Hills and came out to support our community and revisit China."

Since 2014, Beverly Hills has shared a close relationship with Beijing, and that relationship has grown to include Tianjin, the neighboring municipality, and Hebei, the surrounding province.

This year's Beverly Hills Chinese New Year was entitled, "Charming Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei," in honor of Beverly Hills deepening ties with their Chinese co-sponsors, and included a photo exhibit from the three interconnected regions, plus demonstrations of delicate Chinese paper-cutting techniques and the ancient art of calligraphy.

"Just look at how delicate they are!" said one attendee to her date, as she hovered over the paper-cuttings display.

The show itself featured a festive line up of traditional Chinese folkdances, musical acts, Chinese Opera, Tai Chi and martial arts performances.

The China team's relationships with prominent Chinese cultural organizations enabled them to access top Chinese talent for the event.

Through the auspices of the Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Associations for Cultural Exchange, the evening featured a stellar line up of Chinese artists, including vocal soloists, Shan Dai and Yin Zhuojin, Hebei Acrobatic Troupe, Beijing Dance Troupe, Girls Crystal Band, as well as Tai Chi and martial artists, including the Young Women's World Champion and China's reigning male Tai Chi Champion, who were both poetry in motion on stage.

Good-humored American volunteers from the audience were invited on stage to learn a simple martial arts move from the master, to the great amusement of the audience.

One of the volunteers told Xinhua, "What a great night! Who ever thought I'd be on stage in such an amazing ceremony, holding swords in my hands! I never had so much fun!"

The Lunar New Year for the Chinese is typically a time when families and friends reunite and celebrate the festival together. The Beverly Hills event was no exception, as entire families showed up. Two friends in their 30s, Debra and Janet, brought their families of young sons and daughters, aged 6-8, along with them to enjoy the show.

As their kid's blonde heads bobbed in time to the unusual music and their eyes glowed with excitement over the sword dances and exotic Chinese folk costumes, one of the mothers told Xinhua, "We hope to visit China this summer, but until then, this is a great way to expose our kids to an interesting new culture. This isn't the kind of thing you get to do everyday."

Chinese Consul General in Los Angeles Zhang Ping said that this event would serve as a platform for further trade and cultural exchanges and would deepen the mutual understanding between the Chinese and American peoples.

Wagner added, "Our governments are both big and powerful and can have their differences. But when you visit China, meet the people, build relationships, and feel their warmth, you know deep down inside, we all share the same human heart." Enditem

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