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Year of the Rabbit festivities draw big crowds

Thousands of people celebrated the weekend welcoming the Year of the Rabbit in Chinese New Year festivities starting Friday night and running through Saturday afternoon at shopping locations around the island, from Po‘ipu to Hanalei.

“This is a good-sized crowd,” said Stacie-Chiba Miguel, the Alexander &Baldwin regional manager, at The Shops at Kukui‘ula that welcomed the Chinese lions with a flurry of firecrackers during the celebration that was a part of the shopping center’s monthly Flavors of Kukui‘ula programming.

“During the last celebration in 2019 (before the COVID-19 pandemic), we had 2,000 people,” Chiba said. “This is a good-sized crowd. We celebrated last year, but due to the pandemic, it was limited to just the parking lot with a limited amount of people.”

Joining the lion, various eateries, including the Hapa Ramen that opened in an upstairs location, offered specialty event-specific food priced for street food offering and conducive to the atmosphere that was enlivened by Tsunami Taiko, the host of the Chinese lions that toured the shopping center foraging for li see (good luck offerings, normally in red envelopes).

“Melissa McFerrin-Warrack of the Kukui Grove Center speaks mandarin,” Chiba-Miguel said. “They call it something else.”

The festival at Kukui Grove Center is labeled Gong Xi Fa Cai, according to McFerrin-Warrack, and the li see becomes “hongbao,” as the shopping center welcomed the Year of the Rabbit with the appearance of two sets of Chinese lions and a free giveaway of seasonal fruit by the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau, the partners with Kukui Grove that offer the weekly Pau Hana Market on Mondays.

“No more rambutan fruit,” said Laurie Ho of the KCFB. “But we got citrus — we got Daphne McClure’s Moloa‘a Bay Farm caracara oranges, Pong’s Farm tangerines, some Alohalani longan, and a few bunches of Mrs. Ednilao’s tropical flowers for color. I even found some tangelos from the Grove Farm Homestead.”

Joining the Pau Hana Market vendors, Su Okada had an assortment of charms featuring Year of the Rabbit key chains. Her stream of shoppers seeking good fortune talisman overflowed to the KQNG tent that steadily cranked out prize giveaways, and the Aloha Pacific Federal Credit Union tent, where President Vince Otsuka and other members from Honolulu came to the island as an outreach effort, offering shoppers free Chinese candy, and a special “good fortune” credit union special.

Filling the space between the Kaua‘i Chinese lions and the Majestic lions from Honolulu, Diane Rubio and Falling Down Romance entertained the audience with her mastery of Asian, Hawaiian and more contemporary instruments.

“Many of our local restaurants celebrate the lunar new year,” McFerrin-Warrack said. “Kaua‘i Partea held the first Chinese New Year event last week on the first day of the Lunar New Year because it was their fourth anniversary. Many of our tenants, including Aloha Ramen, Ho’s Chinese Kitchen, L&L Barbeque, Prestige Jewelers, and more greeted the lion with hongbao to bring good luck in the new year. This is one of our favorite traditions of the year.”

The Majestic Culture &the Arts Association brought their “Southern,” or fat san, Chinese lion, as opposed to the dragon and more familiar Kaua‘i lions, following its tour of the Ching Young Village Shopping Center and the Hanalei Business Association.

“Chinese lion dance is a staple of traditional Chinese culture,” said Kelfred Chang of the Majestic group. “With foundations in traditional Chinese martial arts, historically being performed by Shaolin monks and martial arts schools, the lion dance is performed as a ceremony to bestow blessings of good luck, health, wealth, prosperity and longevity.”

“Rabbit years bring lucky breaks and partnerships for those on their true paths,” Chang said. “Although Rabbit is not the strongest animal, its charm and speed attract money, fertility, lovers and success.”

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 808-245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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