Celebrating Lunar New Year at Parks and Gardens

By Clement Lau, DPPD, FAICP | Posted on February 2, 2024

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Pictured: Lion dance from last year’s Lunar New Year event at South Coast Botanic Garden. Photo courtesy of South Coast Botanic Garden.

Park and recreation agencies play a pivotal role in celebrating and promoting cultural diversity. Specifically, park agencies serve as facilitators and promoters of cultural diversity by actively engaging with communities, organizing inclusive events, providing educational resources and creating environments that celebrate the richness of various traditions. Through these efforts, we contribute to creating more harmonious, connected and culturally aware societies.

Lunar New Year, a festive celebration deeply rooted in Asian cultures, holds immense significance and has become an integral part of global cultural diversity. The date of Lunar New Year differs every year; in 2024 it starts on February 10. Personally, Lunar New Year has always been a special festival that I enjoyed with my family and friends. Growing up in Hong Kong, it was a multi-day celebration during which I visited relatives with my parents, ate delicious food and snacks (some of which are only available this time of the year), received red packets, and watched spectacular fireworks displays.

Given the size, diversity, and growth of the Asian population in the United States, introducing programs that celebrate Lunar New Year in parks is not only a manifestation of cultural inclusivity but also a means to foster community engagement and understanding. Here are several reasons why park agencies should consider offering programs to celebrate Lunar New Year:

Cultural Diversity

Often referred to as a melting pot of diverse cultures, the U.S. thrives on the richness brought by its people from various ethnic backgrounds. Incorporating Lunar New Year celebrations in parks recognizes the importance of cultural diversity and promotes an atmosphere of unity. These programs create opportunities for people of all backgrounds to learn, appreciate and celebrate the traditions and customs associated with Lunar New Year.

Community Engagement

Parks serve as communal spaces that bring people together. Lunar New Year programs provide an avenue for communities to come together, celebrate their cultural heritage and strengthen social bonds. These events encourage dialogue and interaction among diverse groups, fostering a sense of unity and shared celebration that transcends cultural differences.

Educational Opportunities

Incorporating Lunar New Year celebrations in parks serves as an educational platform, offering visitors the chance to learn about the history, customs and significance of this cultural celebration. Interactive displays, workshops and performances can provide valuable insights, fostering cross-cultural understanding and appreciation among park-goers.

Promoting Inclusivity

By hosting Lunar New Year programs, parks send a powerful message of inclusivity, demonstrating that all cultural traditions are welcomed and embraced. This not only enhances the sense of belonging for individuals from Asian communities but also creates an environment where everyone feels valued and respected.

Economic Impact

Lunar New Year celebrations can have a positive economic impact on local communities. Festivals and events draw visitors, contributing to increased foot traffic in nearby businesses. The influx of people attending Lunar New Year programs can stimulate economic activity, benefiting local shops, restaurants and service providers.

Tourist Attraction

In addition to benefiting local communities, Lunar New Year celebrations in parks can attract tourists interested in learning about and experiencing diverse cultural festivities. This can boost tourism, showcasing parks and the communities in which they are located as destinations that celebrate and appreciate cultural diversity.

Celebrating Lunar New Year at Los Angeles County Parks and Gardens

Created in 1944, the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) meets the growing and diverse park and recreational needs of residents and visitors through a variety of programming, facilities, land acquisition and stewardship, and other activities. DPR has a dual role of being the municipal parks agency for the one million residents living in unincorporated areas and the regional parks agency for the ten million residents countywide. As such, DPR operates and maintains a wide range of facilities, including (but not limited to) local and regional parks, multi-use trails, botanical gardens, natural areas and wildlife sanctuaries.

In 2023, DPR celebrated Lunar New Year for the very first time at county parks with performances, arts and culture, crafts, food tastings and other activities. This February, South Coast Botanic Garden is bringing back its Lunar New Year Celebration for a second year. The garden’s winter blooms and green foliage provide a picture-perfect backdrop to usher in the Year of the Dragon, complete with red lanterns and festive activities. Every Saturday and Sunday in February, the garden will host shows featuring various performances including lion dancers, folk dancers and drummers.

Concluding Thoughts

Introducing and offering programs that celebrate Lunar New Year in parks is a testament to our agencies’ commitment to foster cultural diversity, community engagement and inclusivity. By embracing and celebrating the traditions associated with Lunar New Year, parks and gardens become vibrant spaces where people from all walks of life can come together to share in the richness of global cultures, creating a more interconnected and inclusive society.

Clement Lau, DPPD, FAICP, is a Departmental Facilities Planner with the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation.