Christmas in colorful Chinatown is a Los Angeles tradition

Main plaza L.A. Chinatown 2015
Quite a few of the buildings in the heart of old Chinatown have been painted colorfully for decades. This photo was taken in 2015..  The “After” photo, taken in 2017,is below.

In the melting pot that is Los Angeles two local holiday food traditions stand out.  One is eating tamales during the Christmas season which obviously is inspired by Mexico and the many Mexican restaurants around the city.  Even one of the local fast-food hot dog chains offers tamales during the holidays.

The second tradition is going to Chinatown to have dim sum (Chinese bite-size noodle/pastries) for mid-day dinner on Christmas Day which seems to have originated in the Jewish community.

Blossom apartments chinatown (
This new apartment complex called Blossom seems to have inspired other building owners in the area to paint bolder and bolder!

Other people, including my non-Jewish family, have begun doing Christmas-in-Chinatown, too.  No long hours in the kitchen and no leftover turkey for us!

So if you decide to visit Chinatown for dim sum (or any other reason) and haven’t been there recently, you will see color gone wild on buildings around the area.  I think that the new Blossom Apartments next to the Metro station instigated the painting craze.

See more photos of Chinatown here.

repainted building chinatown
This is the “After” version of the photo at the top of this post. I loved the many shades of green that it had originally, but this color combination of yellow and deep blue-ish purple is interesting, too.
Hot yellow building chinatown
The bright yellow color on this brand new apartment building located on an alley hurts your eyes it is so garish. It is the latest addition to colorful buildings in Chinatown,
Building in Chinatown 201
Tucked back in an alley, the colors on this building are favorites of mine. I’ve always loved Chinese red. And those fake palm trees are a perfect L.A. touch.


This building painted mustard gold with red pillars has been around for a while.
Pink building on plaza chinatown
Another building  has colors inspired by Mexico, rather than China.  Located on the main plaza it has been the brightest, most colorful building in Chinatown until recently.
Woman and god in Chinatown
If you go to Chinatown on Christmas day you may not be able to find this altar which is hidden inside the Swap Meet building– which really isn’t a Swap Meet, BTW.  All the little shops carry new  and very inexpensisve merchandise from China.



Shepard Fairey, skateboards, and plastic sugar skulls in Chinatown

Concrete Playground Shepard Fairey
Skateboarding is the sports of teens in Los Angeles — at least it used to be before smart phones came along. This skateboarder by Shepard Fairey is in the Eastern Projects gallery in Chinatown.

On a shopping trip to Chinatown I stumbled across an art gallery  called  Eastern Projects that is participating in the Pacific Standard Time LA/LA exhibitions.  The gallery is located on the street level of those new brilliant red buildings that almost overwhelm the old structures of Chinatown.

Slick skull head
A classic Mexican image is the skull, here interpreted in plastic by the artist named Slick.

Works by Shepard Fairey (of the famous Obama ‘Hope’ poster), Locos, Dusters, Slick and others vaguely followed the Pacific Standard Time ‘theme’ of Latin American art in Los Angeles.

I was especially intrigued by the skateboard and skater images in the show.


Skateboards by Locos and Duster
The skateboard installation at the Eastern Projects gallery in Chinatown.
Skull head skateboard
Another version of the skull head image on the bottom of this skateboard.
Locos Duster skateboard wave
A cooperative endeavor between Dusters and Locos in the Masters of Style show.
Locos skateboard mouse ears
Not only do skateboards hang on the wall in this exhibition, there are videos too.
Slick cross
Visually interesting cross by Slick. The whole show is being promoted as Masters of Style.

Lion dancers and more at the Chinatown Golden Dragon parade in Los Angeles

lion dancers golden dragon parade
There were many many more lion dancers in the Golden Dragon parade this year. The people carrying these lion costumes were from a martial arts school.

The weather gods must love parades. The Rose Parade, the Doo-Dah parade, the Chinatown Golden Dragon parade all happen during our rainy season, but the days of these parades usually are sunny, although not necessarily warm.

The Chinese New Year’s parade changes only slightly from year to year, but is always fun to photograph, so expecting more of the same, I slipped on a sweater–it was slightly chilly–and caught the Metro to Chinatown.

waiting for parade chinatown 2017
People of all ages and ethnic backgrounds come to the Chinatown parade, some dressed in Chinese-inspired clothing. Parents bring children who are always enthralled by the parade colors and the noises of confetti poppers and tiny fire crackers.
street food vendor chinatown
What would any parade in Los Angeles be without street vendors selling bacon-wrapped hot dogs! (No chiles for me, please.) BTW, if Trump really takes action to deport 8 MILLION people, all our street vendors will disappear, just as the L.A. City Council is planning to start licensing them. Most are Mexican immigrants without papers. Selling street food is a cheap way to start a business here and a great convenience for the community.
The Chinese Historical  Society of Southern California ALWAYS comes at the head of the parade (behind the motorcycle police).  Unlike previous years, the men and women carrying the flags were young.  In other years most had gray hair. These must be the grandchildren!
The Chinese Historical Society of Southern California ALWAYS comes at the head of the parade.  Well, they come right behind the LAPD motorcycle drill team which ALWAYS puts on a loud, crowd-pleasing show to clear the way for the parade. Unlike previous years, the men and women carrying the flags were young. In other years most had gray hair. These must be the grandchildren.
chinese banners
These banners appear in the parade every year and are always gorgeous!
the official golden dragon
This is the ‘official’ golden dragon we see annually.
year of the rooster float
According to one interpretation, a person born in a ‘fire rooster’ year is trustworthy and punctual. The punctuality comes from the rooster’s early morning crowing, according to that source. I like the dash and boldness of this rooster on the float.
cathay bank rooster float
It’s the year of the Fire Rooster, but this chicken on the Cathay Bank float looked very benign, like something one would see in a backyard. (Yes, people keep chickens in back yards in L.A.)
marching band chinese new year parade
Of course, there were marching bands and drill teams!
another two dragons
Far more people of Chinese ancestry live in the San Gabriel Valley east of L.A. than in Chinatown. Maybe to prove their importance they come to this parade every year bearing two dragons, one pink, one red. The little girl on the right was the most enthusiastic parade watcher I’ve seen in years. Waving, yelling, giving two thumbs up. She especially liked the Mexican horse riders in the parade and this small size lion dancer.
favorite lion dancer
One thing I learned this year: to help bring good luck, give the lion dancer a dollar or two. This one got my dollar and I hope good luck follows! I love the girl looking up into the lion dancers face. She is the same Miss Enthusiasm seen in the photo, above.

Riding in an Awesome Pedicab in the heart of Los Angeles CicLAvia

john berry pedicabbist
John Berry’s day job is as a pedicabbist, but on his website I noticed that he is also a sculptor.

Sometimes wishes do come true.

Photographing the Chinatown Hub on Broadway had been my plan for the CicLAvia Heart of L.A. event on Sunday, but before I could take more than a couple of not-very-interesting photos I felt a tap on my shoulder and a pedicab driver asked if I wanted a ride.  I had seen the pedicabs at the last CicLAvia in August and noticed they were sponsored by AARP and thought that it would be fun to ride in one.  “Sure,” I replied to the pedicabbist, who I soon learned was named John Berry.

I hopped into his human-powered vehicle and off we went along Broadway toward the Downtown CicLAvia Hub.  Along the way the thought skittered through my mind that it was as if I was in some steamy, hot Asian country a century ago, wearing a long pastel dress and holding an umbrella to protect me from the sun.  I pushed that fantasy aside and began taking some photographs of this latest CicLAvia. (I will post more photos from downtown–including demonstrations, a Unicyclist, and a very bizarre hairy creature tomorrow.)

fare for peddicabist
The sign on the pedicab read Venice, but John said he worked in Santa Monica, among other places.

John’s business is named Awesome Pedicab and he usually takes people on tours in the Santa Monica area.  While the fares listed on the pedicab were identified as being for Venice, I learned later from his website that he also does a taco tour of the Westside and will take you to the Rams game from wherever you have been forced to park.

Here is what I saw on our way to downtown…well, except the first photo which was taken in the Chinatown Gold Line Metro Station.

cyclists on metro escalator
Thank goodness the Metro added a third car to the Gold Line train this time. During previous CicLAvias bikes were crammed in everywhere! Here are just a few of them descending on the escalator at the Chinatown Metro station.


gift shop chinatown los angeles
Notice the half-body mannikins outside this gift shop. A bit odd.


temple in chinatown
We were moving fast enough that taking photos was a challenge. I did manage to snap this one of a temple gateway on Broadway.
metro bicyles at ciclavia
The Metro is not satisfied with moving people around in trains. The Metro now is in the bike rental business. All the bikes in this photo with a big ‘M’ on them are Metro rentals. There are bike rental stations all over downtown and I overheard someone say that Metro bike rentals are coming to Pasadena soon.
john with pedicab
John Berry with his Awesome Pedicab.
black lives matter demonstration
A White People 4 Black Lives march was at the corner of Broadway and First. This group had also been at the August CicLAvia.  More photos of this and other activities at the downtown Hub tomorrow.





See the people and places of Chinatown L.A. –away from the parade

men plyaing Go in Chinatown
I suspect this was just the latest in a regularly played game between locals. They did not seem to be very interested in the New Year’s parade.

Last weekend the annual Lunar New Year Parade marched through Chinatown in Los Angeles.  While the parade was colorful, much else happened off the parade route. (See photos of the 2016 parade here.)

Fortune teller in Chinatown
This was new! An old man in a gold jacket and orange hat was telling fortunes in a shop off the main plaza in Chinatown. He scrutinized some type of chart intently.

The Chinese Chamber of Commerce put a lot of energy into the event including rock musicians on one stage, Chinese lion dancers and acrobats on another stage and, of course, parked nearby were the food trucks and the other local vendors one finds at almost every public festival in Los Angeles.

Local building owners obviously have been sprucing up their buildings in Chinatown, perhaps under the influence of the enormous apartment complex that is being built right beside the Gold Line Metro Station. You can see it below.  Sadly, it is so huge that it obstructs the view of the old, historic buildings in Chinatown.

Here are photos of some of what I saw.

Ready to explode popper Chinatown
This young man on the left is ready to explode the popper, that tall red cylinder in his hand. It will shower the area with pastel bits of paper. Meanwhile two women on the right end of the bench are taking selfies.
cotton candy vendor
Cotton candy and balloon vendors are found at every festive street event in Los Angeles. There were two or three of them at the Chinese New Year parade.
playing rummy on the curb Chinatown Los Angeles
What should you do while waiting for the parade to start? Play rummy, of course. The young woman told me he always won.
new red lantersn in Chinatown
The red lanterns have been updated this year. The old ones had faded to pink after years and years of exposure to sunlight.
building in Chinatown 2016
Buildings all over Chinatown seem to have been painted recently. I love the colors on this building facing an alley.
New apartment building in Chinatown L.A.
This colossal apartment complex is next to the Gold Line Metro station. and, sadly, completely blocks the view of the historic Chinatown buildings.
Metro station Chinatown
I skipped out before the parade ended and made my way to the Gold Line Metro station for Chinatown and went home.

See the Chinese Golden Dragon parade — hot and colorful in Los Angeles

bearing the dragon
Volunteers carrying this blue dragon. It was one of many long, sinuous dragons in the parade.

It seems that the weather luck of the Rose Parade also holds true for the annual Golden Dragon parade in L.A.’s Chinatown.  I have been going to it for several years and it has never rained on the parade. This year on February 13th it was warm enough to wear shorts –although I didn’t!–and the umbrella sellers made out like bandits.

umbrellas and shorts at Chinese New Year parade
Warm sunny weather meant wearing shorts and sheltering under bright umbrellas. Few of the umbrellas this year were paper; more were made of shiny synthetic fabric.

Because I took so many photos this year, I’m going to split them into two parts.  This is Part One and I’ll show you the parade itself.  Part Two will be photographs taken around Chinatown before the parade began.

As usual, please read the captions.

Chinese golden dragon
One of three golden dragons in the parade. I think I saw this one in previous years. Unlike the Rose parade viewers can show up just as the parade begins and find seating on the curb.
another dragon at Chinatown parade
Another golden dragon in the parade and a proud mother taking a picture of her daughter carrying the dragon.
flags at Chinatown New Year parade
The Chinese Historical Society usually carries flags and they did again this year. BUT these U.S. flag bearers were from a Rotary group.
Deity figure Chinatown parade
I think this is a deity figure. The costume and mask were amazing!
Costumed marchers Chinatown parade 2016
The people escorting this group of costumed marchers were carrying the red flags of the Peoples Republic of China. The costumes were brilliant. I may do a separate post about them, but here they are as a group. The lady in blue jeans and yellow purse walked right through the middle of the group.
Lion dancer 2016
As usual the San Gabriel Valley Chamber of Commerce showed up with their dragon and several lion dancers. More people of Chinese ancestry live in the San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles than in Chinatown which is near downtown L..A.
Po Kung Fu Panda Chinatown parade
Po, the Kung Fu Panda, drew the loudest applause of any participant in the parade. The kids loved him!
Roy Choi Honorary Grand Marshall
What!? How did that food truck get into the parade, I thought. Well it turns out that Roy Choi, the innovative leader of the gourmet food truck movement, was named Honorary Grand Marshal of the parade this year.  Before Choi, the hundreds of L.A. food trucks (which were commonly called ‘roach coaches’) were cheap and mostly sold Mexican food.  Now food trucks serve expensive fusion finger food. 
McDonal's balloons Chinatown
McDonald’s was handing out free balloons for the children waiting for the parade to begin. Not far away Coke was giving away free samples of Coke Zero. There will be more to come about sights away from the parade in my next post.

Money and Jesus at the Chinatown Lunar New Year parade

Chinatown storefront with lanterns
This shop was defintely open for business selling lanterns, party poppers, lucky bamboo and other fun stuff.  Many of the little pieces of paper inside the poppers were tiny dollar bills.

The Golden Dragon parade held every year in Chinatown in L.A. is–well, appeared to be–a big money-making venture for merchants, as well as a celebration to Chinese culture.

Gold figurines for Chinese new year
Gold figurines in a window display must be symbols of good fortune.

Stores were open and the restaurants–especially the ones with take-out–were doing great business. (Photos of the actual parade are on the previous post.)

I attended the parade 4 years ago and noticed a young boy, accompanied by his father on one street corner, preaching to the crowd.  Well, his preaching must have been effective because I saw quite a number of people wandering around this year with large yellow signs about Jesus and the Bible.

Jesus sign and boys scouts
The Boy Scouts are promoting parking. Behind them is one of the many Bible signs along the parade route. There were signs in Chinese and Spanish, too.

Then just before the parade began who should appear but that same young man and his father, walking along the parade route with a big sign and a speaker system.

Policeman telling two roving prechers that they have to walk on the sidewalk, not on the parade route.
Policeman telling two roving street preachers that they have to walk on the sidewalk, not on the parade route.

Then a cop on a bike pulled up next to them and asked them to step onto the sidewalk.  I could not hear what the father answered, but the policeman then asked if they had a parade permit and, if not, they had to walk on the sidewalk.  “We’re not infringing on your freedom of speech”, I heard the cop say.  “You need to walk on the sidewalk.”  This exchange continued with the policeman being polite and insistent that they had to move to the sidewalk.  Eventually, the two roving preachers did step out of the parade route.

I’ll finish this post with a few random photos from this year’s Chinatown celebration.  Be sure to read the captions.

Superior Poultry Good luck
Dragon dancers and drummers outside Superior Poultry. Their noise and dancing is intended to bring good luck to this store.
yellow dragon good luck
A small size golden dragon which went from store to store–including Superior Poultry–to bring good luck to the venue during the Year of the Ram.
Cotton candy balloons
What would any parade or public gathering in Los Angeles be without the cotton candy and balloon sellers.
M<ain Plaza Los Angeles Chinatown
The main plaza in Chinatown about an hour before the parade began. The statue in the center is of Sun Yat-Sen, who founded the Republic of China. (That’s before Mao and the Communist revolution.)
Sleeping baby at New Year's parade
Not everyone was eager to see the parade. This baby slept right through it.