Robbie Short

This Saturday, the Elm City will come together to celebrate the year of the pig at this year’s Lunarfest, an annual celebration of the Lunar New Year.

The festival is an effort to celebrate and educate members of the New Haven community about Chinese culture and tradition. The Yale-China Association, the Council of East Asian Studies and the New Haven Museum joined together to start Lunarfest eight years ago. Since its inception, the event has become increasingly popular, drawing participants from neighboring towns in Connecticut.

“It has grown very organically, from a 50-person lion dance reception to upwards of 4,000 people,” said Annie Lin, the associate director for arts programs at the Yale-China Association.

The event will start with a lion and dragon dance parade at 10 a.m. along Whitney Avenue and Audubon Street. Following the parade, eight different New Haven venues will host special programming throughout the day.

This year, spectators will be able to participate in various events from dumpling making to film screenings. The Wu Dang Kungfu Academy will travel from Orange, Connecticut to perform during the parade. For the lion dance finale, the Wan Chi Ming Hung Gar lion from New York City’s Chinatown will dance atop a 20-foot pole.

Lunarfest offers an opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds to engage with the Chinese community in New Haven. Luce Hall will host a performance of Kunqu opera, one of the oldest surviving forms of Chinese opera, as more adult-oriented programming. The New Haven Museum will host dance workshops, in addition to their annual arts and crafts stations for younger participants.

“I feel like Lunarfest is more culturally oriented than the way other places celebrate Lunar New Year,” said Stella Xu ’21, a volunteer for last year’s event.

The Lunarfest is also an opportunity to bring community members together. Over the past couple weeks, students from four New Haven public schools have worked together with a Tai Chi instructor and choreographer from the Elm City Dance Collective to build their own Chinese dragons for this Saturday’s performance. The Yale Police Department has shown its support for the event by providing these students a space for rehearsal. Lin said that she is excited to see the dragons perform along with another blue dragon specially built by the Asian Network at Yale.

For those who want to engage in the community and do not know how, Lunarfest has an annual call for volunteers. Through a simple sign-up process and volunteer training, high school and university students can help out with festivities throughout the day. Last year, Xu had the opportunity to help run the paper-cutting booth at the New Haven Museum and work with other volunteers interested in promoting education about Chinese culture and tradition.

This year’s Lunarfest is especially meaningful because this is the first year New Haven will be holding the event as a new sister city of Changsha, China. After a two-year process, New Haven officially became sister cities with Changsha this past April and welcomed Changsha residents to New Haven in June.

Andrew Wolf, the director of New Haven’s Arts, Culture and Tourism, applauded Changsha as a city that is driven by knowledge and is progressive when it comes to culture. As Wolf looks toward the future, he hopes to plan more meaningful programming initiatives with the city to engage more community members with its tradition and history.

“We want our residents to have a global perspective,” said Wolf.

Joyce Wu | joyce.wu@yale.edu