Hawaii’s second New Year — otherwise known as Chinese New Year — doesn’t officially start until Feb. 3. But festivities begin today and continue through the weekend in Honolulu’s Chinatown arts district and the Honolulu Academy of Arts
Kicking off the Year of the Rabbit early today were traditional choy cheng—lion dance blessings—through downtown Honolulu, where folks give costumed lion dancers dollar bills as an offering for good luck in the new year.
This weekend’s early Chinese New Year celebrations will continue with entertainment, martial arts demonstrations, traditional dance performances and a parade through Chinatown. Vendors will be selling an assortment of Chinese foods—many of which are believed to bring good luck, prosperity and long life —such as gau (sticky rice cakes made from brown sugar), jai (vegetarian monk’s food), gin doi (Chinese doughnuts) and candied fruit.
The best part? Most of these events are free and open to the public.
Here’s what going on this weekend:
Fri., Jan. 28
• I Love Chinatown Festival
4-10 p.m., intersection of Nuuanu Avenue and Hotel Street, www.ilovechinatownfestival.com
This is a new addition to the Chinese New Year lineup in Chinatown. A two-day block party will feature more than 20 live bands and deejays, an alcohol garden, dance performances, a custom bike exhibit, mechanical bull and surf rides, a foam tent party and a lion dance with firecrackers. A portion of the proceeds will go toward nonprofits.
• 62nd annual Narcissus Festival
6-10 p.m., Chinatown Cultural Plaza, 100 N. Beretania St. and throughout the Chinatown arts district
This free event starts in Chinatown with a traditional Chinese lion dance blessing. The Narcissus Queen and her court —newly crowned last week —will visit Chinatown merchants and their patrons. Stores celebrate by lighting firecrackers and offering lisee (good luck money envelopes) to the dancing lions. Meanwhile, the Chinatown Open House celebration takes place at the Chinatown Cultural Plaza, with food vendors, arts and crafts booths, and entertainment.
• ARTafterDARK: Show Me the Bunny
6 p.m., Honolulu Academy of Arts, 900 S. Beretania St., www.artafterdark.org
The first ARTafterDARK event of 2011 kicks off with a tribute to the Year of the Rabbit, including Chinese lion dancing and drumming, traditional "monk's food" from Town restaurant, and a gallery installment of modern Chinese art. Cost is $10 with discounts to academy members.
Sat., Jan. 29
• I Love Chinatown Festival
noon-10 p.m., intersection of Nuuanu Avenue and Hotel Street, www.ilovechinatownfestival.com
The block party enters its second day with everything from its first day continuing.
• Chinatown New Year Celebration
9 a.m.-10 p.m., Chinatown Cultural Plaza, 100 N. Beretania St.
This free Chinatown New Year Celebration, organized by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, will feature food vendors and entertainment at the Chinatown Cultural Plaza. Vendors will serve up a variety of traditional Chinese dishes, including jai, gin doi, gau and jook (rice soup). Entertainment includes ethnic dance troupes, local musical groups, and martial arts and weapons demonstrations.
• Night in Chinatown Festival
9 a.m.-10 p.m., intersection of Nuuanu Avenue and Hotel Street
The Night in Chinatown Festival is an all-day block party, featuring food booths, arts and crafts and entertainment on two stages, with lion and dragon dance performances and other family-friendly activities throughout the day. The event is free, and organized by the Chinatown Merchants Association.
• Night in Chinatown Parade
3:30-5:30 p.m., Hotel and Maunakea Streets
The Chinatown Merchants Association presents the free Night in Chinatown Parade, which begins in the afternoon, at 3:30 p.m., on Hotel Street near the State Capitol and heads toward Maunakea Street in the Chinatown arts district. Parade participants include Festival Queens and their courts, cultural organizations, kung fu martial artists, lion and dragon dance associations. Don’t miss the special performance by a 150-foot dragon.
For more information on Downtown Honolulu Chinatown arts district Chinese New Year events this weekend and beyond, visit Honolulu's Chinatown website.