"Happy New Year! I wish you good, health, good fortune and great prosperity in the coming new year," said Los Angeles (LA) County Supervisor, Kathryn Barger, to a happy crowd at a local hotel.
The guests gathered here were Chinese of all ages, including a few elders in traditional Chinese costumes and kids frolicking with puppies under foot, as well as Americans new to the tradition of the Chinese New Year.
"I can't get home to China every year, so spending a wonderful afternoon at the Biltmore Hotel to celebrate the Chinese New Year makes me feel at home. It is important to me that this tradition is passed down to the younger generations," a local attendee of Chinese origin who identified herself as Venus told Xinhua.
As the Oscars loom large, the historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown LA, home to the originalAcademy Awardceremonies in the 1930s and the early 1940s, ushered in a different type of Saturday as it hosted an early kick-off for the 2018 Los Angeles Chinese New Year's celebrations.
The Chinese New Year, or the Spring Festival, based on the Chinese lunar calendar, is historically a time to honor traditional Chinese deities and family ancestors. The Spring Festival holiday season officially begins this year on Feb. 16. and ends on March 2.
"This year is the Year of the Dog, which is significant because it means loyalty, friendliness, strength and trustworthiness," said Biltmore's Chinese community leader Jimmy Wu.
"This is a great tradition that allows us to celebrate the coming of the New Year and the rich culture and diversity here in LA county and throughout the nation," Barger told Xinhua.
Under the elaborate murals, carvings, frescos, marble fountains, and crystal chandeliers, a pride of colorful Lion Dancers regaled the mixed crowd of Chinese and Americans with exotic ceremonial dances, succulent roast duck, traditional Chinese New Year's sweet rice soup, shrimp and scallion pancakes, dumplings and Mandarin oranges.
Former California State Senator Bob Huff told Xinhua that "California is such a diverse community, with over 50 languages and dialects, but we are stronger and more competitive when we integrate and learn from other cultures."
"What's great about the Chinese American culture here in California is that they are bringing their culture into our communities," Barger said, "I heard this morning that California is sponsoring legislation to make Chinese New Year a state-recognized holiday. So that tells you just how deep our connections are."
"I am Chinese and proud to be Chinese. But I live in America and I am proud to be American too. I have this great opportunity to have those unique two experiences work together," said Wu.
The spirit of optimism was running high for others too, as attendees told Xinhua about their hopes for future cooperation between theUnited Statesand China and what it might mean for their businesses.
William Wei, a prominent film producer from Beijing, attended the ceremony with his wife. He is undertaking a U.S.-China motion picture co-production and also considering opening a joint U.S.-China production company in Los Angeles.
"We see so many Chinese and American friends celebrating a Chinese cultural tradition here together. We are confident in future cooperation between China and the United States and our ability to create a better future together," said Wei.
"Especially with U.S.-China co-productions. There are so many stories we can share with the world," Wei added.
Another attendee, Kung Fu master and novelist, Sin Kwang The, is a longtime LA resident whose family originally came from southeast China's Fujian Province.
"My roots are in China and my branches are in the United States. But my future combine the two," he told Xinhua, referring to his upcoming U.S.-China film co-production "Defenders of the Gao."
Others mentioned real estate opportunities, high-tech and other service-oriented businesses, making international trade and cooperation the key topic of the day.
Huff, who helped institute the Sister-State program between California and east China's Jiangsu Province, told Xinhua, "Our Chinese immigrants value good business and want to thrive, which helps our economy and our whole community. They have the values we share that honor hard work, family, and education."