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The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Lunar New Year brings Evanston’s Asian American community together

Edward Simon Cruz/The Daily Northwestern
With the help of Freddie’s Modern Kung Fu on Howard Street, the event featured a traditional lion dance where performers mimic a lion to bring good luck.

Evanston kicked off the Year of the Dragon with its third annual Lunar New Year celebration, filled with a lion dance, free hot chocolate and dozens of flashy red envelopes at the corner of Dempster Street and Chicago Avenue on Sunday.

The festivities were a collaborative effort by Main-Dempster Mile, Evanston Asian, South Asian, Pacific Islander American, Evanston Public Library, Evanston Pride, Studio 3 and Cook County Commissioner Josina Morita. They were the first to organize a celebration of the holiday in Evanston when it first started three years ago, according to Melissa Raman Molitor, the founder of Evanston ASPA.

“It kind of starts with an idea: ‘Why don’t we celebrate Lunar New Year?’ It’s so weird that we don’t do that in Evanston,” Molitor said. “Why are there no spaces in Evanston that center the Asian American community?” 

Local children began the festivities by making non-traditional Lunar New Year lanterns at design store Pink & Tan, a joint effort with art gallery Studio 3, and crafting dragon artworks at Coco Design & Build Co., both of which are Main-Dempster Mile small businesses.

Outside, organizers hung up red envelopes filled with candy and gift cards, inspired by hongbao, the traditional Chinese red envelope usually filled with money and are a symbol of good luck, for event-goers to pick. 

“We want to be a welcoming part of Evanston, and we want to be a part of Evanston that helps lift up and make visible any cultural community,” Main-Dempster Mile Executive Director Katherine Gotsick said. “So it was a very easy decision to help, partner, whatever we could with Evanston ASPA to do this.” 

While ASPA managed cultural programming, Main-Dempster Mile took care of finances and helped the event’s traditional lion dance, performed by artists from the Howard Street studio Freddie’s Modern Kung Fu, come to life.

“Because we’re a civic organization, we’re intentional about wanting to buy local,” Gotsick said.

Morita, the first Asian American woman to serve on the Cook County board, and State Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz (D-Glenview), served free hot tea and chocolate to the event-goers. Morita’s office also distributed red envelopes filled with candy and well wishes from the duo. 

“I’m sixth-generation Chinese American and fifth-generation Japanese American, and Lunar New Year was always the biggest celebration with my family,” Morita said. “So many of us have cleaned our houses and cut our hair, and we’re excited to be here with all of you today to have the lion dance, to expel the bad spirits and bring in new energy for the new year.” 

Molitor said it is important to increase representation of the ASPA community in Evanston. Her organization is currently working toward an Asian American arts and culture center, she added.

“It’s vital for the Asian American community to see themselves reflected in their community, to feel a sense of belonging,” Molitor said. “The more that we as a community can support these kinds of things, I think, is really important.”

Mayor Daniel Biss gave a speech at the event. He praised the event, lauding its advocacy of the Asian American community in Evanston. Mandarin and Korean translations organized by the Evanston Public Library followed each speech. 

“As we enter the year of the dragon, I think we can all be excited by an auspicious and wonderful and enjoyable and peaceful new year,” Biss said.

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