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A Next-Generation Lunar New Year Party in Oakland

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A trio of first-generation Asian American women pose in front of a Chinatown market
Yăng Shēng, a multimedia project launched by Hanna Chen (left) and Steph Cai (center), aims to bring "third culture" children of immigrants from Asian diasporas together in the Bay Area. (Terry Thunder Tsai, courtesy of Yăng Shēng)

For Oakland small business owner Jenn Lui and San Francisco visual artist Hanna Chen, embracing the traditions of their Cantonese and Taiwanese ancestors is a kind of soul-filling nourishment. It’s an imaginative labor that allows for the multi-generational preservation of old-school memories, while forging exciting new ones.

The creative duo is behind an intimate Lunar New Year celebration happening on February 18 at Groundfloor in Oakland. The get-together will honor nostalgic Asian cultural cornerstones like mahjong, holiday desserts and red envelopes. At the same time, it will also create space for modern, up-and-coming makers who are reshaping the possibilities of diasporic joy with tea-based cocktails, flash tattoos and tooth gems.

“We’re just reimagining [our cultures] for the current times,” says Lui, the co-founder of Baba’s House, a specialty Asian snack shop in downtown Oakland. “Mahjong was heavily played as a gambling game in my family, but now it’s a social community type of event. It’s about celebrating those blessings, prosperity, health, and doing it intentionally.”

The event will feature live DJs (Ina Chu, JAZZ.FM, TOMU DJ), foodmakers (including Oramasama Dumplings, Oakland Fortune Factory and Jason Bakes), tattoo artists (Proper Tattoo), retail vendors (Two Two, JIĀ HOME CO. and more) and visual artists (Mag Dre, Chris Cheung). In addition, there will be snacks provided by Baba’s House, a DIY red envelope station, an altar to commemorate deceased loved ones, mahjong, raffles and “tea-tails” (alcohol optional) mixed using KACE Tea, a local Taiwanese-Filipino brand.

a red table featuring Chinese cookies for Lunar New Year
Taiwanese pineapple cakes from Jason Bakes will be one of the desserts served at the Lunar New Year Festival. (Courtesy Jenn Lui)

The festivities are part of Yăng Shēng, a multimedia project launched by Chen and Cai that highlights the evolving expressions of Asian American artists through art installations, photography and community events (a book is forthcoming in 2026). The San Francisco-raised artist says that for her, Lunar New Year has always represented a connection to her parents’ homeland. It’s about transporting herself and others abroad, without actually going very far.

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“We want to recreate the feeling of a night market and also take elements from Bay Area events: art gatherings, supper parties, bringing in that club feeling, too. We’re pulling from different pockets of the world like New York, Taipei, Hong Kong, and putting all that into one space for people who might not be able to travel,” Chen says. “This is nudging American culture to be more community-oriented.”

The two entrepreneurs, along with Lui’s partner, Alan Chen, are thunderously vocal when it comes to creating a safe space. It’s not something they’ve always experienced as first-generation children of Asian immigrants whose parents and relatives have sometimes questioned their artistic endeavors and cross-cultural expressions.

“We’re kind of reimagining everything,” Lui says. “When I told my mom about the altar, she asked why we’re doing that. I found that interesting, and I wonder if other folks from that generation don’t see what we’re doing as a positive thing.”

a table altar featuring photos of deceased family members, incense and treats
An altar will be provided inside Groundfloor for attendees to honor their loved ones. (Jenn Lui)

The generational gap hasn’t stopped them, though. If anything, it encourages them to bridge the various ages and groups of Asian Americans who live here in the Bay Area. For both Lui and Chen, intergenerational reclamation and representation is essential. And doing it in a way that feels authentically curated and creatively expansive is what drives them both.

“Our collective experiences span across many decades,” says Chen, who is about 10 years younger than Lui. “We come from really different eras. But we’re all Asian Americans who grew up in the Bay, and I think that connection is special.”

“Maybe you were an outcast growing up as a person of color, but now you’re a cool kid pushing the culture.”

The Lunar New Year Festival presented by Baba’s House and Yăng Shēng will take place at Groundfloor (4055 Telegraph Ave., Oakland) on Feb. 18, 1–6 p.m. Tickets are available online for $15–$25.

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