WASHINGTON - A persistent rain did not keep thousands of families from visiting the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) this weekend for the annual Chinese New Year Festival.
The event inside the Kogod Courtyard, the fifth by the SAAM, aimed at promoting traditional Chinese culture and offering a taste of the Spring Festival. It also provided a unique opportunity for local residents to spend time with their families.
"Do you know what year it is?" Stephanie Stebich, director of the SAAM, asked the audience in her opening remarks.
"It's the Year of the Dog," many people, most non-Asian, responded almost instantly, referring to the Chinese zodiac signs, which feature 12 animals.
The beginning date of the Chinese Lunar New Year is based on a combination of lunar and solar movement, so it is different each year. It falls between Jan 21 and Feb 20.
The Chinese New Year is named after zodiac animals, with a total of 12 zodiac signs on a circle - the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.
The Year of the Dog will start on Friday, when the current Year of the Rooster ends.
Kicking off the SAAM event was a lion-dancing performance. Fathers who had come late and could not find a good spot simply hoisted their children upon their shoulders.
A woman named Tracy who drove from neighboring Maryland told Xinhua that it was the third time that she had brought her son, Luke, for SAAM's Spring Festival activities.
She said that he enjoys watching lion-dancing so much that he often imitates the performance by himself with a blanket at home.
Inside the huge Kogod Courtyard, traditional Chinese lanterns hung. There also was lion-dancing, folk music, Sichuan Opera and acrobatics and also other activities and performances.
Parents and their children waited in long queues to partake in traditional Chinese paper-cutting, picture-making and hand-painting umbrellas.
A father named Richard was teaching his two daughters to put together a ball-shaped ornament. He said that those activities enabled them to have a close experience with traditional Chinese culture.
Acknowledging the long-enduring value of family unity fostered by traditional Chinese Spring Festival culture, Richard said that the SAAM event gave him and his families a chance to spend some quality time together.
"For me, there is nothing more valuable than that," he said.
The SAAM also partnered with the municipal government of Chengdu, the capital city of Southwest China's Sichuan province. As a homeland to the giant panda, Chengdu brought panda-themed experiences to Washingtonians.
There was footage of Bao Bao, a female giant panda born at the National Zoo in Washington, who returned to China early last year. The film brought back pleasant memories about Bao Bao's days in the US capital.
As the Spring Festival nears, the Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler Galleries and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington also will hold similar events as part of a broader Chinese New Year celebration in the US capital.