New Year celebration hosted by IMAS as part of Cultural Series

In a belated celebration of the Lunar New Year, a medley of Asian cultures was celebrated through performances, games and regional food sampling at the International Museum of Art & Science in McAllen.

The festival was held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday as a part of the cultural series, which aims to “highlight different members of our community,” said IMAS Director of Education Jessica Kanyo.

All gallery rooms were occupied with activities, from Korean mask painting to Chinese matcha and Japanese tea tasting and other customs from countries that count their new year the day of the first new moon.

Every hour brought a new activity, such as storytime sessions, mask dance performances and taekwondo.

According to Kanyo, preparations have been underway since last October, and year after year, the celebrations have grown to represent a wider array of Asian cultures.

Some of the local participating organizations included the Texas Korean Network and Chinese American Association.

“We try to bring these cultural experiences to the Valley,” Kanyo said.

Lois Soonmi Jung Kim from the Texas Korean Network attended the event, manning a booth allowing visitors to try on Korean hanbok dresses.

She explained the attire is worn during major celebrations, such as New Year’s Day, festivals and weddings.

The local network was founded last year by herself and a few professors from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley shortly after an Asian studies minor was introduced.

Soonmi Jung Kim is fluent in Korean, English and speaks a moderate amount of Japanese. Japan, however, does not celebrate the Lunar New Year.

“I think people are becoming more aware of the differences of the different cultures,” she said, which she attributes to the surge of popularity of international music and films. “We’re all Asian culture but each culture is very unique.”

Jessica Chi-Yang and Yating Mou from the Chinese American Association explained the differences in attire between the Korean and Chinese culture.

For special events, Chinese women wear a cheongsam. However, it differs by dynasty abided, and red is a popular color as it is considered to bring “good luck, fortune and joy,” they said.

Throughout the museum, hourly performances took place and games of Kongki Noli, a type of jacks, and JegiChagi were demonstrated.

Cathey Middle School students Lucy Song, Monica Manzo and her younger sister Veronica volunteered in the museum’s atrium to direct activities.

The trio is involved in a Korean church and has been taking courses to master the language.

Song was impressed by the authenticity of the festival and the demonstration of the gayageum, the traditional instrument of Korea.

Down the hall, a workshop was held for Korean mask painting.

The scarier and the uglier the mask, the better — as the masks are believed to ward off evil spirits — explained a volunteer.

Another popular feature was the food sampling. Dishes were donated from five local Asian restaurants.

Shirley Juan, from the Chinese American Association, strolled the museum, interacted with guests and had a few tables set up which provided a peek into some of the countries’ traditions.

One of the tables was a version of pinball, created by pieced together wooden boards with nails serving as the columns. A young boy named Benjamin collected fees and helped explain rules to the participants.

The organization serves as a community for the Chinese population of the Valley, who often feel “homesick.”

“People come to welcome them,” she said. “If you are new we have someone contact you.”

Hundreds of students, families and individuals visited the event and grew a bit more acquainted with the culture of our Asian friends.

The next event in the cultural series will be held in the spring to celebrate India. For more information, visit theimasonline.org.

rvillalobos@themonitor.com

This story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Lois Soonmi Jung Kim’s name.