Get ready to kick off the Year of the Tiger! Lunar New Year starts on February 1 this year, and it’s time to celebrate! Lunar New Year is a great time to reflect on the past, welcome the changing of the seasons, get ready for the year ahead, and learn a little more about the diverse communities that call Chicago home.
Dragon Dancers at the Alliance’s 2014 Mosaic Gala. Photo by Jason Brown Photography
What is Lunar New Year?
Lunar New Year is one of the most important holidays in many cultures across East Asia, and to people of East Asian descent across the world. While in America the new year starts on January 1, as determined by the Gregorian calendar, many cultures instead mark time by moon cycles. Lunar New Year always falls on the first New Moon to appear between January 21 and February 20.
Lunar New Year is a major holiday in China, Korea, Singapore, Japan, Tibet, Vietnam, and Mongolia, and many other countries celebrate as well. Specifically in China, it is known as the Spring Festival. Though it occurs in the coldest time of year, it is a hopeful time of looking forward to the new year and the coming of spring.
How to Celebrate Lunar New Year in Chicago
Because we have diverse communities across the city and suburbs, of course there are going to be some Lunar New Year celebrations in Chicago! Check out some events where you can learn more about this holiday and the cultures that celebrate it:
Chinese New Year Online Celebration
The Chinese American Museum of Chicago is hosting a virtual Lunar New Year celebration this year! Join them on Wednesday, February 2 at 6pm for a free event where you can learn about the holiday, hear musical performances, enjoy the lion dance, and lots more. Register here.
Korean Traditional Furniture Exhibition
The Korean Cultural Center of Chicago is doing something a little different for Lunar New Year– an exhibition celebrating the beautiful decorative arts of traditional Korean furniture. It’s a fun and interesting way to learn more about Korean culture in a more relaxed setting. Learn more here.
Argyle Lunar New Year Celebration and Parade
The diverse neighborhood of Uptown has hosted a Lunar New Year celebration in Chicago for over 40 years! This year is no different, with a parade and other festivities kicking off on February 5th. Learn more here.
Have fun! Hoping the Year of the Tiger brings you health and happiness.
Marie Rowley, Marketing and Communications Manager
This year, you can shop small, support local cultural institutions, and beat the shipping headaches from big retailers using our Chicago Culture Holiday Shopping Guide. The Chicago Cultural Alliance includes over 40 cultural heritage centers, museums, and heritage societies across Chicago’s neighborhoods and suburbs. Many of them have online and in-person gift shops where you can find the perfect item for the culture lover in your life! For books, arts, clothing, jewelry, music, artisanal crafts, and things you can’t even imagine you need, our Members have got you covered.
And by the way, I know you might have a loved one on your list who says they already have everything they need or they’d love an “experience” instead of a “gift.” In that case, consider buying them a Membership to a small museum or making a donation in their name! Those help out small institutions a lot.
6500 S Pulaski Rd Hours: Mon-Sat, 10am-4pm. Sun, 12pm-4pm. Lots to discover at the Balzekas’ Museum gift shop, like Lithuanian cookbooks, linens, even teas and seasonings. I love in particular the straw Christmas ornaments, which are a hallmark of Lithuanian Christmastime and trace their history to Lithuanians in Chicago! (Make one yourself at the workshop at the museum on Sat, Dec 11.) Shop online here.
4455 S King Dr, Suite 103. Hours: Fri and Sat, 10am-4pm. A selection of awesome gifts that celebrate Black history and culture, like t-shirts, handmade jewelry, and personal care items, all by local creators. You could buy a whole basket of lotions, candles, and body scrubs from CSG Naturals, which smell great and are made right here in Chicago. Email [email protected] with inquiries.
Their t-shirts, hoodies and other goods honor Scottish heroes of the past with funky designs AND your purchase supports a local charity, Caledonia Senior Living and Memory Care. Very cool. Shop online here.
238 W 23rd St Hours: Wed and Fri, 9:30am-2pm. Sat and Sun, 10am-4pm. This gift shop has lots of book options that illuminate the stories and contributions of Chinese Americans to history. Check out Chinatown in Chicago, which was actually created by the CAMOC! Shop online here.
Hibernian Media produces stories that keep the culture of Ireland alive, so their online store of course has some lively books and DVDs. Check out “Her Majesty Da’ Queen,” a documentary that gave a backstage peek at the Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade queen contest. Shop online here.
9603 Woods Dr, Skokie Hours: Wed-Sun, 10am-5pm. All purchases support the Museum’s mission: “Remember the Past, Transform the Future,” and so you’ll find many items here that inspire, uplift, and remind us to build a better world. I’m partial to the simple “Stop Hate” enamel pin. Shop online here.
4626 N Knox Ave Hours: Fri, 4pm-8pm, and Sat, 10am-4pm.
Whether you are hungry for sweets from the Galway Bakers or savories from Winston, you can find your Irish favorites at the Irish American Heritage Center Gift Shop. You can find crafts from our own Nimble Thimbles, including hand-sewn face masks, aprons, and quilts. The Gift Shop also carries woolens from Aran Mills, Irish caps, candles and diffusers from Inis, and even authentic turf directly from Ireland so your fireplace smells like home.
3001 Central St, Evanston Hours: Wed, 10am-5pm, and Sat, 10am-5pm.
Their gift shop contains a collection of incredible items created by talented Native artists and craftspeople from across America. With books, jewelry, art, accessories, and more, there are unique items for everyone. My pick: Handmade Nizhoni soaps from the Navajo Nation, in Blue Corn Pollen scent. Shop online here.
“When you purchase a product from the South Side Community Art Center, you support the legacy and future of African American art and artists.” You also get a great gift. Options include apparel and gifts with the SSCAC’s colorful logo, or a very coolhistorical poster featuring 100 Black artists posing on the center’s front steps in 1958! Shop online here.
5211 N Clark St Hours (through Dec 30): Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm (Fri, Dec 17 extended hours to 8pm). Sat & Sun, 11am-4pm.
The gift shop at the Swedish American Museum always packs in the holiday goodies, with Swedish treats, ornaments, and gifts galore. Pick up some cozy socks or some fresh, locally-baked pastries. Shop online here.
Unsurprisingly for UIMA, you’ll find some thought-provoking and artistic items in the gift shop! Books, postcards and posters celebrate the legacy of Ukrainian artists. Buy the Patrick Caufield postcard bundle and pass them out to friends or liven up your home office. Shop online here.
AMERICAN WRITERS MUSEUM – IN-PERSON OR ONLINE
180 N Michigan Ave For the writer (or reader) in your life, the AWM celebrates the written word. I love the games and puzzles for kids in particular.
INTUIT: THE CENTER FOR INTUITIVE AND OUTSIDE ART – IN-PERSON OR ONLINE
756 N Milwaukee Ave Intuit’s online and in person gift shop is full of beautiful, fascinating, one-of-a-kind objects made by artists. Brighten up someone’s life with a unique creation like the Lady Liberty Pencil Necklace by Pencil Lady.
It goes without saying that a world class art museum will have an awesome gift shop for art lovers. My recommendation? Look how cute the enamel keychain of the iconic Art Institute lion is! Shop online here.
The Chicago Cultural Alliance observes Juneteenth —also known as Emancipation Day and Freedom Day—as an official holiday. Juneteenth commemorates the effective end of slavery in the United States on June 19, 1865.
On that date, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after the end of the Civil War, Union Major General Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in Galveston Texas, where some Black people were still enslaved. Granger issued a proclamation to the people of Texas re-affirming that based on President Lincoln’s order, all enslaved people were free.
There are currently forty-seven states, and the District of Columbia, that recognize Juneteenth as either an official or ceremonial holiday. A bill to recognize Juneteenth as a paid state holiday was introduced in the Illinois General Assembly and passed this week. We ask that you join the Alliance in observing Juneteenth so it is recognized by more citizens of the United States and internationally.
Dear Chairman Tunney and Members of the Committee,
Recently, Landmarks Illinois and the Alphawood Foundation informed the Chicago Cultural Alliance about a proposed zoning amendment that would restrict establishing cultural exhibits and the housing of museums in “R” zoning districts and require special use permits. This proposal is in stark contrast to the mission of the Chicago Cultural Alliance. The Alliance is an arts advocacy organization that provides professional services to 42 ethnic museums, historical societies, and community centers, which we call our Core Members. Our members operating in “R” districts are active and central meeting places that contribute to stabilizing and improving their blocks and neighborhoods.
The Alliance was founded by and for Chicago’s neighborhood-based cultural institutions. Our mission is to promote, support, and connect centers of cultural heritage for a more inclusive and equitable Chicago. Our members represent 30 different cultures around the world and are all based in 30 of the 77 Chicago neighborhoods and 10 suburbs.
These institutions protect and highlight Chicago’s history, foster economic stability through partnerships with local businesses and family-owned restaurants, and address residents’ needs in your wards and throughout the city. The Chicago Cultural Alliance strongly opposes this proposed zoning amendment. It will harm neighborhoods and create more uncertainty for these vital community institutions who are already a vulnerable class of small businesses because of the pandemic. It would also curtail other organizations who are planning to establish new museums and cultural exhibits, including the former home of Muddy Waters and a museum dedicated to Emmett Till.
The Alliance and our members provide cultural activities, education opportunities for teachers and students, and stimulate local business in neighborhoods. We also actively connect and partner with Alderman and Chambers of Commerce to emphasize how these institutions strengthen and rebuild our city. If members of the zoning committee want to learn more about our work, we invite you to join our monthly virtual town halls on the first Fridays of each month. If the Zoning Committee chooses to participate, please contact me at [email protected]
We urge you to vote against any change in the zoning code that will disallow and discourage our members’ operations. The proposal will seriously jeopardize the stability of neighborhood institutions that tell inclusive, equitable, and honest stories about this city and its people.
If not, let us do the honor of introducing you to Monique Brinkman-Hill, who was appointed as South Side Community Art Center’s Executive Director in December 2019. Having to take over just before the start of 2020 and all the twists and turns it had in store, Monique and her team have worked hard to support their organization in its 80th year.
Do you want to hear about what it’s like to serve as a relatively new executive director during a pandemic and learn more about the South Side Community Art Center?
Listen (and/or watch) Monique’s interview with the Alliance’s own new executive director, Peter Vega, in this episode of Cultural Connections!
If you find yourself wondering how people end up working in their field or what it is like to work at a museum, this episode of Cultural Connections is perfect for you!
Join Executive Director Peter Vega and Kathleen McDonald as they discuss their experiences in the arts/humanities. Kathleen has been active in the world of arts and humanities since her college years (even though it wasn’t her original plan!) and worked her way up the ranks in museums.
Maybe this episode will inspire you or someone you know to get involved at a local museum or heritage center!
We are a month into our Cultural Connections Campaign and we want to thank you for tuning in every week to listen to our members and supporters discuss topics on cultural diversity, inclusion, and equity. So far we have raised a total of $15,000 towards our goal of $50,000. We know we can hit that goal, but we need your help.
Thank you for your ongoing commitment to connect, promote, and support centers of cultural heritage for a more inclusive Chicago.