As Randy Hom grew up, the celebration around Lunar New Year, sometimes called Chinese New Year, morphed and changed.
In the beginning, when his family just owned King Wah, the 50-year-old Rocky River restaurant, Hom spent most New Years around a big table at his grandmother’s house in the AsiaTown neighborhood with family and close friends. Elders would stuff red envelopes full of cash and pass them to younger family members that were unmarried — many of whom would later take that dough to a local watering hole for gatherings similar to “the night before Thanksgiving,” says Hom. In fact, this holiday of homecoming, which is observed by billions across the planet, spurs the largest annual mass migrations of people.
“We didn’t have a lot of family in the area,” says Hom, “but we had a lot of close friends.”
Eventually, his mother, Donna, the restaurant’s original owner and a legend for her work in the Asian community, opened her second and third restaurants, Ho Wah in Beachwood and Li Wah in Asian Town Center, which she helped develop. More and more, the Homs spent the most important Chinese holiday serving their new extended family: the customers.
Today, the annual celebration at the restaurant, which kicks off the year of the Rabbit on Jan. 22, is still going strong many decades later. For more than 40 years, the Kwan Lion Dance group has swayed to the steady beat of the drum and the jittery tune of firecrackers, which are used to scare off evil spirits. A special menu of Cantonese cooking — inspired by Donna’s native Guangzhou, China, just north of Hong Kong — includes good luck foods like longevity noodles for long life, leafy greens for wealth, sesame balls for happiness and pork or steamed whole fish and lobster for prosperity.