KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The official start of the Chinese Lunar New Year is happening this weekend.

Sunday, Jan. 22 marks the beginning of the new year according to the lunar calendar and 15 days later, is the celebration of the Lantern Festival. The Kalamazoo community is busy celebrating.

On Jan. 14, the Chinese Association of Greater Kalamazoo hosted a Chinese New Year Gala at at Chenery Auditorium on Westnedge Avenue near Vine Street in Kalamazoo.

Western Michigan University Asian Initiative and Kalamazoo Chinese Academy are teaming up to host a Lantern Festival Gala on Feb. 4 at 4 p.m. at Chenery Auditorium. It will feature a symphony, a lion and dragon dance, and martial arts among other performances. You can purchase tickets here. General admission is $8 and $5 for students, seniors, and WMU employees.

A Lantern Festival Celebration to Portage Senior Center will be happening the next day, Feb. 5, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Portage Zhang Senior Center on Centre Avenue in Portage. It will include performances, crafts, food and drinks, raffle prizes and a book signing. You can register at the Kalamazoo Chinese Academy website but it is free to attend.

Mei Hua, the president of the Chinese Association of Greater Kalamazoo said the new year is usually celebrated with dancing and fanfare.

“We eat reunion dinner with family on New Year’s Eve and most importantly for kids we give red envelopes and other gifts to the kids, and then we also do firecrackers and fireworks, and then watching lion and dragon dances … activities that show perspective and then it shows good luck,” Hua said.

The group works to honor Asian heritage in Kalamazoo year-round.

“In the Kalamazoo community here, we as a nonprofit organization would like to contribute to the community by showcasing the Chinese culture, arts, etcetera so that we can spread the knowledge so we can educate the community about the diverse culture in the Asian communities,” said Yongjun Li, vice president of the Chinese Association of Greater Kalamazoo

The Lunar New Year falls on a different day each year, according to the lunar calendar. A celebration is also being held in Grand Rapids tomorrow afternoon from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Grand Rapids Public Library Yankee Clipper branch on Leonard Street.