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Celebrating the Chinese New Year

— Lunar Chinese New Year festivities continued this past weekend, attracting hundreds of thousands of shoppers and visitors to Fair Oaks Mall. Lunar New Year is the most important holiday of the Chinese traditional calendar, based on the phases of the moon and the solar year. The year is 4710 and celebrates the dragon, which is considered the luckiest sign of the Chinese zodiac, symbolizing strength, power and good luck.

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Fair Oaks Mall hosted Lunar Chinese New Year festivities last weekend.

The two-day celebration at Fair Oaks Mall included performances, arts and crafts, and cultural dances, including the famous Lion Dance and Dragon dances, which are believed to ward off evil spirits by the loud drumbeats and cymbals along with the aggressive dancing of the lion or dragon. Multiple Asian cultures were represented, including China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.

"We have a really large community of shoppers but for us it's more about celebrating the Lunar New Year. There are more than 40 countries of shoppers and it lets us incorporate all those cultures together," said Robbie Stark, general manager of Fair Oaks Mall. "We will have more than 200,000 people coming to the mall this weekend which makes us one of the biggest celebrations in the area. We get to have a lot of fun with everyone."

This was the ninth year in the making for the Lunar New Year festivities sponsored by Hai Hua Community Center, a nonprofit organization working as a bridge between new immigrants and American society since 1989. The organization was presented the President's Volunteer Service Award, delivered by Chiling Tong, the founder and CEO of the International Leadership Foundation and former deputy director of the Minority Business Development Agency at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

"This is a great honor for all of us, our event would not be successful without hundreds of our volunteers each year. Most importantly, we really bring the Asian culture into the American community. I do see when we started this

event nine years ago, we were questioned by many about why we were doing this program. Now all over Virginia, Asian culture is greatly accepted to mainstream society; I think there are many people like us who have tried very hard to introduce various Asian culture to our friends here in Virginia," said Hank Chao, president of Hai Hua Community Center.

Also present at the festivities were U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11) and several other Fairfax County officials. "It was a great celebration of Asian culture. As we head towards a very tough year in our country we can look to the characteristics of the Dragon — innovative and enterprising — to help us make it through," said Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity, who has been attending the event for years.

The Lunar New Year was on Janu. 23 and lasts a total of 15 days, ending with a full moon on the 15th day. The Lantern Festival concludes New Year festivities, celebrated with lantern displays at night and children solving riddles on the lanterns.

"Last year due to the economy there was a time that we had to cancel the event. But fortunately, Fairfax county supervisors brought the event back. In the past few years, we have expanded the event to be multicultural, and we hope to have many celebrations in the future," said Chao.