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A member of the Trail Blazers' RIP City crew performs for the crowds outside of the Portland Chinatown Museum. Photo by Erik Paul.

By Erik Paul

A/V Editor

As the Gregorian calendar marks time using the sun and celebrates the new year in January, many Asian cultures celebrate the new year in February with the onset of the lunar calendar’s new year.

“The Portland Chinatown Museum wants to welcome you and thank you all for coming on this chilly morning to celebrate the Lunar New Year,” said the event’s master of ceremonies Bruce Locke. “It is the Year of the Dragon.”

The Portland Chinatown Museum organized the eighth annual Lunar New Year Dragon Dance Parade and Celebration which was held on Feb. 17. Over time, the festivities have grown into more magnificent displays, and the eighth installment was no exception.

“Our new year is actually a 15-day, two-week celebration. So, the actual new year was last week, and we’ve got over a week to go in celebration,” Locke said. “There are celebrations that go on through these two weeks and mostly it’s about family. It’s about hoping we have enough rain, but not too much rain for the coming crops.”

The rhythmic beats of drums and cymbals and the enchanting dragon dance brought a sense of renewal to Portland. The crowd’s mood exuded excitement and celebration. There was a sense of cultural pride in the air.

In collaboration with PCM, White Lotus Foundation and Portland Lee’s Association lion dance teams wowed spectators with their energetic performances. The Trail Blazers Rip City Crew also danced and interacted with the crowd.

The White Lotus Foundation led the way in the parade with their massive red dragon. The Portland Chinatown History Foundation followed with an impressive 150-foot dragon named PoChiMu. The dragons gracefully navigated through the China Gate and concluded in the Oregon Historical Society Park Plaza after traversing the streets of Chinatown. They were escorted along the way by the Portland Police Bureau.

The lunar calendar centers around the lunar phases within each month, unlike the Gregorian calendar which derives its structure from the Earth’s orbit around the sun. It features a unique combination of 12 animals from the Chinese zodiac (Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig) and five elements (Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal). Each pairing of an animal and element occurs only once in a 60-year cycle.

“In Chinese culture, dragons are all about good luck and prosperity, wisdom and protection. They’re very benevolent creatures,” said Kittie Kong, board member of Portland’s chapter of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance. “We are actually in the year 4721, which is the Wood Dragon.”

Along the parade route, lions actively participated in the traditional practice of “plucking the green” where the lions plucked a green vegetable suspended from a height – in this case, it hung from a stick. Volunteers distributed traditional red envelopes to participants and onlookers to foster an atmosphere of shared joy and prosperity.

“These kinds of events are important for me to recall why we’re here today to celebrate this wonderful time of year and also to reflect on the Portland Chinatown Museum,” said PCM board President Harris Matarazzo. 

The Lunar New Year event highlighted the city celebrating its cultural tapestry offering an immersive sensory experience for visitors to explore the rich traditions of the Lunar New Year. The event sought to foster unity and appreciation for the vibrant cultural heritage of the Portland Chinatown community.

For those wanting to participate in this year’s Lunar New Year festivities, a few events are still taking place. 

The Garden Home Recreation Center, for instance, will be celebrating the Lunar New Year in Southwest Portland on Saturday, Feb. 24. Attendees can expect multiple lion and dragon dances, martial arts, taiko drummers, live music, and lucky red envelopes. Lan Su Chinese Garden also offers opportunities for participation such as dragon and lantern viewing through March 2.

Erik Paul


  1. Sarah Leong Chung on February 22, 2024 at 10:57 am

    Thank you for highlighting our Lunar New Year Dragon Dance Parade in year of the Dragon. The Portland Chinatown Museum organizes and hosts this annual event for our diverse community. It has become a much anticipated event for young and old and brings joy and hope to all.