LATHAM, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Capital Region Asian-American community preparing to celebrate the most important holiday in many eastern cultures. The Year of the Rabbit hopping its way on the 2023 calendar towards Lunar New Year this Sunday.

For many Asian cultures, there’s no more important day.

“The Lunar New Year’s celebration is like Thanksgiving and Christmas combined into one,” explains Chinese Community Center President Wei Qin.

“It’s really fun. We have a big feast of fish, vegetables, and my favorite food is the dumplings,” says young Angelica Cooney of her family’s celebrations at home.

The Chinese Community Center in Latham preparing for the annual Lunar New Year Gala show, featuring cultural performances from dancing to music and daring acrobatics by kung fu performers.

“I started when I was 12. I’m 21 now, and I’m still going,” says Wushu performer Max Bruni from The Chinese Marital Arts Academy.

“I take a lot of pride in it. I think it’s very important to carry something that’s not from your own culture with a lot of respect and diligence, and I don’t take it lightly. I put everything I’ve got towards it,” adds Micah Juman, a fellow Wushu performer.

President Qin says she feels a duty to use such events to promote understanding, especially with the recent rise of “Stop Asian Hate” movements. 

“We are here, and we live just like you. Chinese people may eat different foods, but many people love Chinese food. Chinese people may look different, but think about a garden of only roses. That would be very boring, right? What about other [flowers] that may look different, but they make the garden more beautiful,” she says.

“I believe cultures should have no barriers. Like music, like art, that’s a part that should really cross nationalities, race, skin colors, and even religion beliefs,” Qin goes on to say.

She further adds Lunar New Year isn’t recognized as a state holiday, but wishes it could be. This year’s performers agree, saying they love what they’ve learned about many Asian cultures and their heritage. A state holiday could encourage others to enjoy the same.

“If you’re not exposed to it, then you’ll never know. So, even just to recognize it in public schools and the government, it’s a learning opportunity at the very least,” says Juman.

“I work at the state actually, and if you think about it, we get Fourth of July off, Thanksgiving, Christmas, all of that–even if you don’t celebrate it. I think it should absolutely be a holiday,” says Bruni.

“Everybody can know everybody, and then, like, they can share the traditions together, tell stories, and have fun,” adds Angelica, who will be singing a complex, traditional Chinese love story at Sunday’s performance.

The Lunar New Year Gala Show will be at the UAlbany Performing Arts Center this Sunday, January 22 with a brief VIP hour before the show starts at 3 p.m. NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton will be acting as emcee! Click here for ticket information.