Birmingham Ushers in the Year of the Dog
Record crowds flocked to an auditorium in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, last month to celebrate the Lunar New Year, in an event featuring performances by dancers of all ages, and even a Beijing Opera singer.
The city’s 12th Annual Chinese New Year Festival drew more than 4,000 people, not including performers from Birmingham’s sister city Chao Yang District (in the Chinese capital city of Beijing) and Chinese-Americans and others from the Birmingham area.
The festival is just one of the many international events sponsored or founded by the Birmingham Sister Cities Commission, ranging from the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Cherry Blossom (Sakura) Festival later this month, to Ghana and Ukraine Independence Day celebrations, home to two of Birmingham’s sister cities. The commission is also involved in the city’s International Street Fair held every May.
Last year, they even helped bring the Maccabbi Games, an Olympic-style international sports competition for Jewish youth (featuring athletes from Birmingham’s sister cities in Israel and Ukraine), to Birmingham.
Every one of these events, including last month’s ushering in of the Year of the Dog, highlight the cultures and achievements of Birmingham’s many sister cities.
A little more than a dozen years ago, a sister cities official in Birmingham met with a local Chinese-American businessman to talk about the City of Atlanta’s annual Chinese New Year celebration, and how Birmingham might want to do something similar. They conceived of it as a way of fostering greater knowledge of Chinese culture and greater involvement of Chinese people in the civic life of the community.
Fast-forward to 2007, when the City of Birmingham used its first Chinese New Year Festival to ring in the Year of the Pig. In 2019, the city will once again usher in the Year of the Pig, thereby completing the 12-year Chinese lunar cycle.
The sister city bond between Birmingham and Chao Yang District was first established in 1998, evolving out of existing exchanges between the cities’ health departments and the University of Alabama-Birmingham’s School for Public Health.