When Weiwei Zhang dons her costume for the Chinese Splendor of the Sleeves dance, her super long sleeves ripple like waves. "When you make a movement, the sleeves kind of flow like water, that's why the sleeves are also called water sleeves ," says Zhang, a teacher from Mt. Sinai. "It’s a very traditional Chinese dance."
Zhang’s Long Island Chinese Dance Group will featured as one of the prerecorded performances during the Ninth Annual Suffolk County Asian American Advisory Board’s Lunar New Year Celebration, which will be virtual due to the pandemic.
The free program, which starts at 6 p.m. Friday on Zoom or YouTube, also includes cooking and musical presentations. A teacher from the Stony Brook Chinese School will lead dumpling making, and a chef from the Selden Grill will demonstrate Korean rice with lobster, says Ramon Villongco, advisory board chairman.
Also on the agenda is Chinese Zither music and the youth chorus from the Stony Brook Chinese School singing "Let the World Be Filled With Love."
Elaine Ma, 10, of Sayville, says her family will watch her sing with the chorus. Due to the pandemic, they’ll drive to friends’ houses this year to pass out the traditional red envelopes meant to wish good luck and blessings.
"My family normally has our friends come over and we give out red envelopes to the kids with $20 in them," Elaine says. Then they would eat a Chinese hot pot meal and watch a Kung Fu movie.
YEAR OF THE OX
During a typical year, Lunar New Year would also involve cultural groups hosting public events featuring the traditional Lion Dances, choreographed by performers inside a snaking dragon.
"We’re so disappointed," says Gloria Rocchio, president of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, of nixing their 17th annual celebration entirely. "We’ve always done something with the dragon and dancers. The children were always so happy. We would always have 200 people."
But Long Island families are making the best of the festive holiday, also known as the Spring Festival or Chinese New Year, that this year marks the beginning of the Year of the Ox.
Wendy La of Roslyn Heights celebrated with her extended family last year, dressing her older two sons in traditional red and gold Chinese outfits. "It’s usually a whole big party," says La, an occupational therapist. "It’s hard now because of the pandemic, so we can’t meet up with the family the way we would." Instead, she’ll mark the occasion with a dinner at home with her husband, Daniel, and their children, ages 4, 2 and 7 months.
Benjamin Zhang, 14, of South Setauket says his family would have either flown to China to bake moon cakes and make dumplings with extended family there, or the others would have traveled to New York. "Not this year though," Zhang says. They will Skype instead.
Several other Long Island venues are also offering online options to mark the holiday, which is celebrated in many other Asian countries in addition to China. The Charles B. Wang Center at Stony Brook University is hosting a free workshop called "Learn to Crochet Daruma Dolls," a traditional Japanese good luck doll.
A list of items needs and a separate video instruction for beginners is now available online. Daruma Dolls are typically red and show a bearded man’s face, modeled after the founder of Buddhism, and they are considered a talisman.
At 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 18, the Nassau County Office of Asian American Affairs is hosting a free virtual event livestreamed on its Facebook page that will feature prerecorded performances of dragon dance, Zither playing, and more, says Demi Guo, program coordinator for the Office of Asian American Affairs.
Port Washington’s Landmark on Main Street partnered to help produce two different prerecorded virtual programs using the Jeanne Rimsky Theater, says Laura Mogul, Landmark executive director.
The free Town of North Hempstead/Landmark program will air at 4 p.m. Feb. 11 to 14 on the town’s TV channel, including a Chinese drum performance and a sword and ribbon dance. The free Flushing-based Glow Community Center/Landmark program will air at 7 p.m. on Feb. 12 and features dance and martial arts. In addition, Glow is offering daily 90-second bilingual videos through Feb. 26 with vignettes about the holiday, and a craft and tradition activity at 2 p.m. Feb. 14.
"This year is a little weird," says Garture Li, Glow’s operations director. "Hopefully a digital performance will suffice."
WHERE TO WATCH
Suffolk County Asian American Advisory Board event: youtube.com
Nassau County Office of Asian American Affairs event: Facebook.com/NassaucountyOAA
Town of North Hempstead/Landmark on Main Street event: mynhtv.com
Glow Community Center/Landmark on Main Street event: youtube.com