What I didn’t know about China was enough to fill a festival

What did I know about Chinese culture or festivals

before moving to Beijing? Growing up in the United States, it was m

ostly stereotypical nonsense seen in reruns of old Charlie Chan movies on TV.

As an adult, I have really enjoyed watching Jackie Chan kick the living daylights out of the bad guys i

n the world, but there hasn’t been much exposure to genuine Chinese experiences, especially in my adopted hometown of Birmin

gham, Alabama. There, in the heart of the South, Chinese are few compared with the majority white and Af

rican-American population. The total Asian population was 2,152 last year, according to the US Census Bureau.

So when I heard that Birmingham was holding a Spring Festival party this year with Beijing’s Cha

oyang district, its sister city, I was beyond thrilled. Until now, I didn’t know that the “sisters” would kick off

the holiday in Alabama’s largest city with the annual Birmingham Chinese New Year Gala.