Oakland Chinatown Lantern Festival Embraces Tradition, Old and New

Wu says one Oakland Bloom vendor, M and D Food, is especially emblematic of the festival’s multigenerational approach. Known for its take on Hong Kong street foods like milk tea and curry fish balls, the business itself is a mother-and-daughter operation. Meanwhile, the chef’s father is visiting from Hong Kong, so he’ll be on hand to provide customers with auspicious, handwritten Chinese calligraphy scrolls — a traditional touch from the older generation.

As for the actual lantern component of the festival, Wu concedes that there won’t be quite as magnificent a display as there was during last year’s inaugural event, when 88 red lanterns soared over the Pacific Renaissance Plaza. This year, a smaller number of lanterns will be integrated into the festival decor, and Friends of Lincoln Square Park will lead a hands-on activity that will give kids the opportunity to make small paper lanterns of their own.

Filipino pork skewers on a metal tray.
Filipino barbecue pork skewers by Tabachito. (Courtesy of Oakland Bloom)

On both days of the event, the itinerary will extend after dark, until 8 p.m., when many of Oakland Chinatown’s businesses will have already closed. For a neighborhood still struggling to get on its feet in the wake of a devastating pandemic, the hope is that events like the Lantern Festival — with those red lanterns shining bright in the sky — can help bring a lively sense of community.

“One of the goals was to create moments of community coming together in publicly accessible spaces in Oakland Chinatown and to really support people coming out at night there,” Wu says.

The Oakland Chinatown Lantern Festival will take place in and around the Pacific Renaissance Plaza (388 9th St., Oakland) on Saturday, Feb. 24 and Sunday, Feb. 25, from 3–8 p.m. each day. Check the full event schedule for each day’s lineup of workshops, performances and food vendors, and follow Oakland Bloom and AAPI Healers for Liberation on Instagram for updates.

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