We hate to be the bear-er of bad news, but it’s really happening: the National Zoo announced this morning that it will host Panda Palooza, “a giant farewell” celebration in honor of the three iconic bears, Tian Tian, Mei Xiang, and Xiao Qi Ji, slated to return to China on December 7. Festivities will run from September 23 to October 1.
The extravaganza’s itinerary features numerous in-person and virtual events, including morning yoga with panda talks, live concerts, a scavenger hunt, and free movie screenings of “Kung Fu Panda” and “The Miracle Club.”
Panda-themed arts and crafts projects, temporary tattoos, photo backdrops, and more will be available throughout the museum for the duration of the nine-day event. Additionally, the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China will provide a calligraphy station, themed treats, and other activities. The zoo will continue to update its Panda Palooza page with more details as the celebration draws closer.
The National Zoo received Tian Tian and Mei Xiang in December 2000 through a partnership with the China Wildlife Conservation Association. Since their arrival, the pair have had four surviving cubs—Tai Shan (2005), Bao Bao (2013), Bei Bei (2015), and Xiao Qi Ji (2020). The eldest three siblings have already relocated to China, but mama bear, papa bear, and baby bear have remained in DC under an agreement effective until December of this year.
This panda family—and those who came before them—has lived in the hearts of residents and visitors for decades. To honor this history, the zoo created a submission form inviting fans to share their memories and photos over the years and will select a few to display on its website.
While we’re all for reflecting on the good times, we’re still (bam)boo-hooing over the pandas’ nearing departure. But, as they say, if you love something, you have to set it free.