Like many, come New Year’s, I create a list of resolutions, get back to the gym, and purchase mass quantities of celery sticks. I take the stairs more often, drink a tall glass of water before every meal, and never eat past 6 o’clock.
But after a few weeks, the weight-loss plateaus and my bellyaches grow painful. I’m reminded of a mythological Chinese creature called the Nian.
The Nian was a hungry beast that lived in a mountain near a village. Every Chinese New Year, around the same time that my diet goes awry, the Nian attacked the village, eating the crops, livestock, and occasional residents. At some point, the people put out plates of food so that they weren’t eaten, but I don’t think that worked very often.
Fortunately, I have never attacked a village for food as a result of my diet, but I am in serious food and festival withdrawal during those weeks. Therefore, it should be no surprise that once the Lunar New Year comes around, I’m desperate for some good ethnic grub and elated to find it not far from home in Cleveland’s own version of Chinatown. If you haven’t found your excuse to explore this neighborhood lately, we’ve got just the winter festival for you.
This year, the Year of the Horse rides in on Jan. 31 with celebrations taking place the weekend before at two Asia Town locations. Asia Plaza, located at the corner of East 30th Street and Payne Avenue, is the smaller of the two with a one-day event. There, the hallways and lobby will be filled with informational booths, cultural presentations, and an envelope-eating lion that will dance through the hallways and restaurants.
The second location is at East 38th Street and Superior Avenue at Asia Town Center, where the ample space allows for more action to entertain festival-goers during its two-day celebration. Along with the popular dancing lion, tables line the walls with Asian gifts, cultural and regional resource information, and various Asian foods while the main stage features entertainment from drumming and acrobatics to talent shows and eating contests.
One thing to mention is that these are not strictly Chinese festivities. With an open, non-culture-specific festival name (Lunar New Year) and a non-culture-specific festival location (Asia Town instead of Chinatown), the vendors, entertainment, and food are free to be influenced by various Asian countries, such as Japan, Thailand, and India.
The Lunar New Year celebration gives you an excuse to take a field trip in your own backyard. Explore the unique selection of shops and restaurants that make up this downtown neighborhood. At Asia Town Center, 3820 Superior Ave., you’ll find two galleries, a coffee shop and Cleveland’s largest Asian supermarket. While Asia Plaza, 2999 Payne Ave., offers up fantastic Asian gift shops and delicious dim sum at Li Wah.
This New Year’s why not head downtown and have some fun. Try something new. Korean BBQ at Miega? Perhaps some pho at Pho 99?
It might be just what your inner Nian needs.