By Marissa Parra

CHICAGO (CBS) — Hundreds of lanterns lined the streets of Chinatown, normally packed with crowds for the Lunar New Year Parades. For Chinese Americans, it feels like a fresh start after a uniquely difficult year for Asian Americans.

Inside of Chiu Quon bakery, Grace Chan showed CBS 2’s Marissa Parra traditional eats and sweets. The puff pastries, supposed to look like gold pieces, symbolize wealth and prosperity to usher in a Chinese New Year unlike any other.

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“Last year we had the parade full of people. This year it’s quiet,” said Mabel Moy, chair of the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.

There are no big parades this year, but the streets of Chinatown are decked in red, China’s color of luck, and there’s no shortage of wishes for more of just that.

“It’s been tough,” said Chan. “The coronavirus first started in Asia, and so Chinatowns across America were hit hard.” 

When the pandemic first hit, Chinatown’s business was down roughly 90% , according to the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce. Several of them are still facing an uphill battle.

“We are standing next to a business facing eviction, one of the most successful restaurants in Chinatown,” said Chan. “It’s devastating.”

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Also devastating to the community is the increase in anti-Asian attacks across the country. Nationally since the pandemic began, there has been an 845% spike in hate incidents or crime compared to 2017 to 2019, according to the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council and Chinese for Affirmative Action.

“In the beginning they would say, ‘You’re Asian,’ thinking the virus started from you,” said Moy.

Chicago hasn’t seen the same level of violence against Asian Americans that Oakland has, for instance, but it weighs heavily on Chinese Americans in the area.

“These hate crimes that we see continue to make us an other and continue to make us feel like we don’t belong, and it does weigh heavily on me and other folks,” said Chan.

For Chan and so many Chinese Americans, the New Year — welcoming the Year of the Ox — means a fresh start that is already looking up.

“The ox is hard working and resilient and strong,” Chan said. “I think with the context of what has been happening — and we want to remind folks that Chinese Americans are hardworking and strong and resilient people — and we will come through all of this.”

Chan is with Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community and says they’re keeping a close eye on  attacks against Asian Americans throughout the country, with hope to prevent a similar trend from taking off in Chicago.

To report a hate crime or find resources on what to do if you face discrimination, go to the following sites:

Find information on teh Coalition For A Better Chinese American Community here.

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Report a hate crime to the City of Chicago here.