Institute of Texan Cultures celebrates the year of the dragon

The Institute of Texan Cultures celebrated the year of the dragon during its 25th annual Asian Festival on Saturday, Jan. 28 on its grounds, located at 801 E. Cesar E. Chavez Blvd. The year of the dragon on the lunar calendar started on Jan. 23, 2012.

For many Asians throughout the world -- typically wherever ethnic Chinese and Chinese immigrants reside, as well as people from Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and other East Asian nations -- the lunar new year is the largest celebration of the year. It marks the end of winter and the start of spring.

Families start the year cleaning out their homes and altars, and forgiving last year's grudges to begin the year anew. Chinese new year celebrations are marked with gatherings and feasts of freshly prepared foods (versus the preserved foods of winter), as well as lion dances and firecrackers to scare away evil spirits. Children show reverence to elders, who in turn offer red paper envelopes of money to youngsters. And generally people celebrating the lunar new year are in good spirits, offering well wishes for the new year.

At the ITC in San Antonio, Asian American groups celebrated the lunar new year with folk dances and other cultural performances, including martial arts and cooking demonstrations. Various Asian American community groups operated food booths to share traditional native foods, including spring rolls, noodles, and the always popular meat-on-stick variations, as well as recent innovations, such as the tapioca ball smoothies known as boba drinks.

Though the lunar new year is typically celebrated in East Asian countries, the Asian Festival at the ITC includes any nations in the Asian continent, including India and Pakistan, as well as the Pacific islands.