When you think of Cleveland, pierogis, rock and roll, and now championship parades may come to mind. Many of us know this side of Cleveland well. But if you venture into the St. Clair Superior neighborhood – in the blocks between East 18th Street and East 40th Street north of Payne Avenue -you will find another unique Cleveland experience: a vibrant and thriving AsiaTown. This neighborhood is home to the largest self-identifying Asian population in Ohio, and the best Lunar New Year’s celebration in Northeast Ohio.
The celebration happens every year in January and highlights a different Chinese zodiac animal. If you have travelled the area at all, you undoubtedly have seen the public art statues from previous celebrations scattered around St. Clair Superior. 2017 is the Year of the Rooster, an animal known for being observant, hardworking and confident. Keep an eye out for new rooster statues, as they will soon begin appearing throughout the neighborhood.
Johnny Wu, co-founder of the Asian Festival, local business owner and long-time Clevelander, often talks about what makes the Lunar New Year so special. He explains that the Lunar New Year is a time to gather together with family, and wish your loved ones a prosperous new year. Johnny and his family typically celebrate with Chinese dumplings, rice, noodles and fish, with each traditional dish holding a special meaning. He remembers waking up as a child to a bright shiny apple that his father had left on his pillow and he fondly recalls getting his “red envelope” which contained crisp new bills, providing him with his earliest lessons on saving money.
AsiaTown culture has come to mean a lot more in Cleveland than just Chinese Culture. Johnny explains that because of influences from Korea, Vietnam, and other Asian countries all throughout the area, “Chinese New Year” has been renamed “Lunar New Year”. And while many of the traditions are passed down from Chinese Culture, there are influences from all over Asia throughout the neighborhood.
Join us in celebrating 2017: The Year of the Rooster. In AsiaTown, you can catch a Lion Dance performance at the AsiaTown Center or practice your Thai Chi at the Bai Wei Herbal Store. You can always grab some dim sum for lunch, or if you’re looking for something more traditional, make your reservations for the celebration dinner and performances at Li Wah. All of this and more are waiting for you to explore!