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Lion Dancer, Chinese New Year, Portland, 1939
Chinese New Year in Portland, 1939 Lion Dancer "eats" lettuce, amid firecracker smoke, while two merchants stand watching. Photo: Oregon Historical Society, Neg Or Hi #84041

Portland's Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is the biggest celebration of the year for people of Chinese heritage around the world. Also called Lunar New Year because it is based on the lunar calendar, Chinese New Year begins at sunset on the day of the second moon after the winter solstice. Traditionally, in China, the holiday lasts fifteen days. In Portland, however, families celebrate the holidays on weekends or in the evenings.

Portland's Chinese New Year officially begins in Chinatown with a ritual lion dance, performed by the Cantonese lion team of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, to chase away evil spirits and bring good luck. For three hours, musicians and two "lions" dance their way to each of more than thirty establishments in the district.

Most of Oregon's earliest Chinese residents came from the Kwangtung province of Canton in southern China, who began coming in 1851, the year gold was discovered in southern Oregon. By the mid-1870s, the Chinese were the largest ethnic group in Portland and, by 1910, Portland's Chinatown was the second biggest in the United States, after San Francisco.

Documentation includes a text report and 12 slides.

Originally submitted by: Ron Wyden,Senator.

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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