Happy New Year of the Monkey!

Even though we’re already into February, you can still celebrate the new year – the Chinese new year, that is. This Saturday is the Asia Pacific Cultural Center’s sixth annual Asia Pacific New Year Celebration at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall.

This annual one-day celebration of Asian culture draws between 7,000 and 10,000 people from the surrounding Puget Sound area.

The public is invited to join the fun-filled all-day event celebrating the music, foods, dances, performances and crafts of several Asian and Pacific Islanders, including Cambodia, China, Fiji, Hawaii, India, Japan, Laos, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Samoa, Thailand, Tahiti, Tonga, Taiwan, Tokelau, and Vietnam.

This is the Year of the Monkey in the Chinese Zodiac, and the featured community at this year’s gathering will be those with ties to mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

The Chinese calendar dates back centuries before the Julian calendar we use now – it’s the Chinese year 4071 – and is based on the lunar cycle, with a new month beginning with each new moon. Because of this cyclical dating, the beginning of the year can fall anywhere between late January and the middle of February. The Chinese New Year’s Day this year was on Thursday, Jan. 22.

The animal signs – with 2004 being the monkey – are part of a 12-year cycle used for dating the years. The next year of the Monkey will occur in 2016.

In addition to the ongoing stage performances by the Chinese and a dozen other Asian Pacific communities, there will be over 50 arts and crafts vendors with cultural artifacts, 10-plus community information booths and five Asia Pacific food vendors to satisfy your appetite.

This year’s Asia Pacific Cultural Celebration also features:

– A full day of back-to-back performances from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. by 17 different ethnic communities.

– The “All Cities Dance,” an evening dance for over 3,000 young adults.

– Information booths on valuable community resources.

– Crafts, demonstrations and community retail store displays.

The Asia Pacific New Year Celebration is set to take place this Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall, 2727 East D St.

Support has been provided by the Washington State Arts Commission, Pierce County Arts Commission, City of Tacoma, Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, State Farm Insurance Companies, Columbia Bank, Regal Bank of Seattle, Pierce College, Tacoma Power/CLICK Network, Lexus of Tacoma at Fife, Chinese Art and Music Association, Heng Da Academy, IPC Restaurant Supplies, Olympia Area Chinese Fellowship, Chinese Heritage Committee in Olympia, Korean Women’s Association, Indochinese Cultural and Service Center, Gear Up Project and volunteers from the local communities, including Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Guamanian, Hawaiian, Hmong, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Lao, Taiwanese, Tibetan, Thai, Samoan and Vietnamese community groups.

For more information, please call the Asia Pacific Cultural Center at 253/383-3900 or via e-mail at apccusa@qwest.net.

The Asia Pacific Culture Center, located at 1123 Pacific Ave. in downtown Tacoma, represents 47 countries and cultures of the Asian Pacific region. Activities include sponsoring international and local visual and performing arts programs and lecture series, as well as collaborative projects with local organizations.