Viet Hoa Center’s Lunar New Year Houston 2017 & How One Man Keep Tradition Alive

The Viet Hoa Center @ Beltway 8 Plaza at 8388 W. Sam Houston Parkway South, Houston 77072 held a fantastic Lunar New Year Celebration that I attended February 4, 2017.  They did it up right! Lots of great entertainment such as singers, dancers, martial arts, plenty of vendors, food and happy visitor faces including mine!  I will go back next year most certainly!! Did I mention this was a FREE event too (even better!!).

The following was posted on the Lunar New Year Houston’s Facebook page I wanted to share the rich history and how if not for one man, Mr. Henry Chiu, of Tan Tan Restaurant (which by the way has excellent food! I LOVE their food actually), I may not have been able to attend 🙂

The Lunar New Year Story in Houston-(Story courtesy of the lovely people at Lunar New Year Houston)

In 1930, there were fewer than 30 Chinese in Houston. By then, Houston’s Chinatown had moved from its original location at 600 Texas Avenue to the southeastern outskirts of town on Chartres Street at Rusk Avenue.

The On Leong Chinese Merchants’ building in Houston’s then-new Chinatown became the venue for the City’s first community Lion Dance celebrations for Lunar New Year. Endless strings of Lucky Red Firecrackers were suspended atop the green tiled roof. The three-story building housed the community’s elaborate Ancestors Altar, civic meeting & banquet space, as well as the ‘old bachelors’ living quarters. By 1950, there were just an estimated 1,000 Chinese Houstonians.

For most of the second half of the twentieth century, Houston’s Chinatown New Year celebration was a grand spectacle. Lion dancers precariously balanced on each other’s shoulders to reach the Jade Green Lettuce Heads that hid the Lucky Red Envelopes of money, amid the incessant roar of millions of firecrackers. This was the collective community memory of New Year for the entirety of Houston’s Chinese for 60 years.

Until the 1990’s, when Houston’s East Asian immigration exploded, some 250 – 300 small Asian businesses and community organizations celebrated with Lion Dancers and Firecrackers each New Year. “Lunar New Year without firecrackers is NOT a real New Year celebration!” was the sentiment echoed by many, including Vican Tan of Viet Hoa Center, venue host of Lunar New Year Houston since 2008.

In 1994, the City clamped down on Lion Dance fireworks and the hundreds of authentic New Year celebrations dwindled to a single small event in Houston. The prohibitive expense of meeting the City’s safety and permitting policies heralded the demise of this most consequential cultural keystone of Houston’s Asian community. The loss of these essential ritual celebrations in the community resulted in the dwindling of arts groups dedicated to practicing and perfecting the Lion & Dragon Dance art forms in Houston.

Since those days, this historically genuine art form was only kept alive in Houston by a single Asian entrepreneur. Mr. Henry Chiu, of Tan Tan Restaurant, a Cantonese-ethnic Vietnamese national refugee, resettled his family here after fleeing war-torn Vietnam. He truly believed that the great good fortune of his family and business in Houston was based in his cultural fidelity to the authentic Lunar New Year celebration.

Each year, in their tiny parking lot, Tan Tan Restaurant hosts all the City’s Lion Dance groups celebrating the New Year with millions of Lucky Red Firecrackers. For years, this was the only chance for Houstonians to experience a ‘real Lunar New Year’ event. Even though this event was not marketed city-wide and the size of the audiences was limited by the small venue, Mr. Chiu single-handedly saved an ancient art form for our International City. It is his unwavering dedication that serves as our inspiration.

The cultural import of this ancient ritual ceremony is not well-understood by the American public, yet it holds deep meaning for many Asian cultures. The City is home to many Asian cultures that assign great significance to this celebration of the Lunar New Year, including Houstonians from mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Okinawa, Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Sydney, and Singapore, with each region possessing their own Lion Dance styles.

The Lion Dance dates back to 510 A.D., while the Dragon Dance’s origin dates to 200 A.D. The Lion, traditionally regarded as a ‘guardian’ creature, figures prominently in Buddhist tradition. The Dragon, always regarded as a ‘sacred’ creature, symbolizing power, courage, righteousness and dignity, is considered by the Chinese as a ‘sign of their cultural identity’.

IN 2008, LUNAR NEW YEAR HOUSTON was launched. The authentic Lion Dances presented at LUNAR NEW YEAR HOUSTON are of the ‘Southern style’ and are performed to exorcise Evil Spirits and to summon Luck & Fortune. The Dragon Dance signifies the end of the year and welcoming New Beginnings, driving away Evil and blessing all with Health & Prosperity.

The dances are performed atop hundreds of thousands of Lucky Red Firecrackers, accompanied by giant drums, cymbals and gongs, to make an immense noise to chase away Bad Fortune of the Old Year. As many as 80 Lions and Dragons perform at LUNAR NEW YEAR HOUSTON with nearly a million red firecrackers!

This unique cultural arts event is the first professionally produced Lion & Dragon New Year ceremonies for the City of Houston. LUNAR NEW YEAR HOUSTON is a FREE outdoor event for family audiences at Viet Hoa International Food Shopping Center . This year, on February 13th & 14th, LUNAR NEW YEAR HOUSTON attracted an audience in excess of 60,000.

All of the world’s International Cities boast of elaborate traditional Lunar New Year celebrations. True dedication to the authentic celebration of Houston’s Lunar New Year will bring Good Fortune to Our City.

Vendor Booth at 2017 Viet Hoa Lunar New Year
Vendor Booth at 2017 Viet Hoa Lunar New Year
Excited to see the Lion Dance at 2017 Viet Hoa Lunar New Year
Excited to see the Lion Dance at 2017 Viet Hoa Lunar New Year
This little one was adorable and happy to wait for the Lion Dance at 2017 Viet Hoa Lunar New Year
This little one was adorable and happy to wait for the Lion Dance at 2017 Viet Hoa Lunar New Year
Sun's Wholesale Club had this beautiful display in honor of the Lunar New Year
Sun’s Wholesale Club had this beautiful display in honor of the Lunar New Year
Traditional Vietnamese Wedding Dance Vietnamese Wedding Dance
Traditional Vietnamese Wedding Dance (I think but correct me please if I am mistaken!)
One of the winner's of the traditional dress contest - does it get any more cute?!
One of the winner’s of the traditional dress contest – does it get any more cute?!
My favorite part of the event...the Lion Dance with a TON of firecrackers!!!
My favorite part of the event…the Lion Dance with a TON of firecrackers!!!
Couldn't resist this shot of the firecrackers!
Couldn’t resist this shot of the firecrackers!
Touch the lucky lion! (A red envelope doesn't hurt :))
Touch the lucky lion! (A red envelope doesn’t hurt :))
I wouldn't want to be the person on the bottom!
I wouldn’t want to be the person on the bottom!
Happy Lunar New Year!
Happy Lunar New Year!
Way too scary for me to ever try!!
Way too scary for me to ever try!!
This entire team was incredible but this was crazy!
This entire team was incredible but this was crazy!
Kuddos to the artist at Sun's Wholesale Club!!
Kuddos to the artist at Sun’s Wholesale Club!! (Had to show you a close up!)

Here’s a YouTube I found by DaNang Houston:

Happy Lunar New Year (Chinese Community Center)

Gong Hey Fat Choy (Happy Chinese New Year in Cantonese)
Gong Xi Fa Cai (Mandarin)

2017 Is the year of the Fire Rooster!

Happy Chinese New Year!!! This is the year of the Rooster.  Not only is it the year of the Rooster, but specifically a Fire Rooster.  In Chinese astrology each of the 12 animals has an element associated with it too such as Gold/Metal, Wood, Water, Fire or Earth.  The element-sign combos occur every 60 years. Donny Osmond and Martin Luther King III are all Fire Roosters.  They are said to possess the characteristics of trustworthiness, strong sense of timekeeping and responsibility at work and are good money managers. Me, I’m a Wood Dragon-Introverted, taciturn, very talented but not fond of the limelight.

According to This is the said Characteristics of the Five Elements 

Wood – Benevolence 

The wood pronounces the fate, nobleness, representing extractive, luxuriant, brilliant, blooming, flourishing etc. 

Fire – Propriety 

The fire pronounces the feature, strength or softness, representing power, influence, bravery and intense. 

Metal – Righteousness

The metal pronounces the life span, longevity or abortion, foretelling any penalties, dangers, difficulties and dead end.

Water – Wisdom

The water pronounces the talent, sage or fool, representing aptitude, brightness, agile mind and accuracy, 

Earth – Fidelity/Honesty

The earth pronounces the status, rich or poor, representing the birth and growth of everything

Fun for kids and adults
Thought she was the cutest ever with her Lion toy
Touch the Lion for Good Luck!
I LOVE to Lion Dance!

I visited the Chinese Community Center on  Saturday, January 28, 2016 for their free Lunar New Year celebration.  They did a stellar job and did I say it was FREE?! Plenty to see, tons of food and gift vendors, children’s activities, traditional dances – just a fun day out!  Thanks to all those who make the special day possible! The Lion Dance is my favorite!

This is the story of the Lion Dance according to “When the lion first appeared on earth, you see, he was a real troublemaker.  He got up to all sorts of nonsense.  So a buddha was sent down to sort things out.  Dressed in the robes of a monk, with a fan in one hand and a gourd of whiskey in the other, he called out to the lion, “Hey you, Lion, stop this nonsense!”  The lion didn’t pay heed, of course, so they took to the streets and they battled.  While the lion, on the one hand, desperately wanted the bottle of whiskey, he was also terrified of the Buddha’s fan.  So they fought, and they fought, and after many rounds still neither could best the other.  But the Buddha had a trick up his sleeve, and he whipped the long red sash from around his waist.  He threw it around the desperate lion, reined in the vile beast and dragged it to the nearest temple. There, the two of them silently knelt and prayed together, and the lion found peace in his heart.”

There were amazing dancers performing there too…here are a few of my favorites:

Traditional Indian Dancers
I loved this dancers energy and happiness
Beautiful little Ballerinas
Beautiful little Ballerinas
Cute Ballerina's
Cute Ballerina’s