WESTBROOK — Jun Zhu and her daughter, Muci, 7, stood at a crafts table at the Chinese New Year celebration Saturday and dipped their brushes in black paint to draw two Chinese characters that together mean “China.”

Although the newly arrived Chinese citizens had been in the United States for only a month and do not speak much English yet, they managed to fit right in at the celebration at Westbrook Performing Arts Center.

“We like Portland very much. It is clean and welcoming,” said Yiwei han Zhu, husband of Jun and father of Muci.

The Zhus were among dozens of other native-born Chinese celebrating the Year of the Pig at the annual Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, celebration sponsored by the Chinese and American Friendship Association of Maine and the Confucius Institute at the University of Southern Maine.

Hundreds of people showed up at the performance center to ring in the new year, which officially starts on Tuesday .

The Chinese New Year marks the start of Chinese lunisolar calendar. The 12-year Chinese zodiac calendar is represented by 12 different animals. The pig is the last animal in the cycle and augurs a year of fortune and wealth.

The Westbrook event is the largest lunar new year celebration in Maine. It features, dancing, lectures, a parade, music, arts and crafts, and lots of Chinese food.

The Chinese and American Friendship Association of Maine was founded in 1988 to promote friendship between American and Chinese people. The association has about 300 members.

On Saturday, Linda Dy of Westbrook ushered her family members around arts and crafts tables. She said she wants them to get to know something about their own Asian roots, which include ancestors from Cambodia, China and Thailand.

She said somewhere along the way the family, which also has Italian and Irish ancestry, stopped celebrating the lunar new year and practicing other Asian traditions.

“I want them to get involved with their heritage,” she said.

Her son, Tayvion, 8, a third-grader, said he liked the food and the crafts the best.

The Zhus, who moved to Portland so Yiwei han Zhu can study at the University of Maine School of Law, attended the event with some of their new friends from the law school. The Zhus said despite the excitement of living the United States, Chinese New Year triggered a little bit of homesickness. They said they are looking forward to the day when their son, 3, now in the care of family back home, joins them in Maine in the months ahead.

Meanwhile, said Yiwei han Zhu, the only thing to do was to wish everyone a wonderful new year. He offered up a new year sentiment in his native language.

It meant, wishing you “big money in the new year,'” he said.

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