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San Gabriel Lunar Lantern Festival is bigger than years past

Angelina Chung
Hong Kong Street Food serves fried finger food

   On Feb. 17-18, the annual San Gabriel Lunar Lantern Festival partnered with radio stations: KMRB AM 1430 and KAZN 1300. The event began at 10 a.m. with a traditional Lion Dance and concluded at 8 p.m. with a closing performance from the KAZN 1300 band.

   The Lunar Lantern Festival annually celebrates Chinese New Year in San Gabriel. Street food vendors, advocacy groups, and religious institutions were at the festival throughout the day. The Lunar Lantern Festival is a staple in the San Gabriel community, intertwining different cultures and parts of Asia.

Dancers perform a traditional Tibetan drum dance (Angelina Chung)

   San Gabriel councilman Tony Ding stated, “The festival is held to allow attendees to reminisce and resemble Taiwan, China, and Hong Kong.”

   The festival was well attended, with most attendees being young children accompanied by their parents.

   This year was the first time the festival incorporated amusement park rides, including a ferris wheel, carnival-style games, and a petting zoo with chickens, alpacas, and bunnies – activities catered towards a younger demographic.

   “We mainly attend the festival for our children so they can enjoy the games and activities they have each year,” an attendee commented.

An interactive art display with well wishes for its viewers (Angelina Chung)
Participants practice writing “auspicious” in Chinese calligraphy (Angelina Chung)

   The Lunar Lantern Festival differs yearly, with new activities, attractions, and food. The parking lot of both the San Gabriel Mission and Blossom Market Hall were utilized, and the City of San Gabriel arranged with nearby schools, businesses, and the San Gabriel Hospital to provide parking.

   “The size has absolutely increased,” stated police officer Esther Tse. “We have never had the event two days in a row and so this is the first and I think everyone loves it.”

   After the pandemic, the event drastically expanded from just being on Mission Drive to encompassing the whole Mission District. Expanding the festival was a major change to bring in more people. 

   “The vendors and businesses enjoy using the parking lot because the event feels closer together and the people feel closer to one another,” said Councilman Ding.

A golden dragon lies on display to wish luck to those passing it (Angelina Chung)

   The Lunar Lantern Festival is held to replicate celebrations in Asian countries while simultaneously recognizing the Asian American community in San Gabriel. The festival featured many food vendors ranging from classic carnival food to Taiwanese delicacies like stinky tofu and China’s Dragon’s Beard Candy.

   “This is our first time being a vendor at a festival,” remarked Tania, the daughter of the owner of Hong Kong Street Food, which sells Hong Kong-style french toast and fried siu mai. “It was my mom’s idea and we decided to do it to support her dreams.”

   Performances were a combination of both traditional and modern entertainment, from lion dances to hip hop dance groups.

   “It felt really good to sing in front of all these people,” stated Laiora Cohen, who performed “Never Enough” from “The Greatest Showman”. “I think it made a couple of people happy and I really enjoyed it.”

   Serving the community was a major factor in planning the Lunar Lantern Festival, as it has been held annually over the past six to seven years in recognition of San Gabriel’s Asian community.

Hsi Lai Temple’s Lunar New Year display (Angelina Chung)

   “Planning events like this take six months because of the significance it has to our community.” Councilman Ding stated. The city wants to show traditional and contemporary Asian celebrations and festivities to demonstrate why it is important to celebrate Chinese culture.”

   Several religious institutions, Hsi Lai Shi Temple, the Mandarin Baptist Church of Los Angeles, and the Herald Christian Health Center provided activities and prizes for attendees to enjoy and win.

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About the Contributor
Angelina Chung, Contributing Writer
Angelina Chung is a Guest Writer for the Tongva Times. Outside of writing, she enjoys Soulcycle, cafe-hopping, and traveling. Angelina's passion for English and story crafting led her to journalism, where she continues to explore and develop her writing skills.
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