Chinese New Year 2011: Celebrating in New York

North America | | February 4, 2011 at 2:08 am


The Chinese New Year, despite being the most traditional one, is celebrated throughout the world including the New York City of US. Well, this is not surprising because this city houses one of the largest American Chinatowns that features spectacular celebrations during the Chinese Lunar New Year. This event normally falls during the late-January to mid-February, but this year, it is on 3rd February whose celebrations will last for some 15 days where the last day is observed as the Lantern Festival. In the Chinese communities, the Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival because it is the end of winter. However, like the western notion of the New Year, this one has no fixed date.

As each New Year of the Chinese is linked to a specific animal, this year is said to be the year of Rabbit that speaks a lot about the upcoming year. Most of the celebrations take place in the main Chinatown district on the crossroads of the Canal as well as Mott Streets. Although this area is always busy, the festival makes it even livelier and crowded when its streets hold the colorful lanterns as well as the other decorations. The Chinese restaurants here offer special traditional dishes as families and friends assemble to celebrate together by dining and wishing ‘Gung Hay Fat Choy’ – ‘Best wishes and Congratulations. Have a prosperous and good year’.

Manhattan’s Chinatown is the venue of big communal events during the Chinese New Year. One of them is the Cracker Show held at Chatham Square on the event’s main day featuring fireworks display to keep the evil spirits at bay. It also includes traditional performances done by the Chinese-American artists. This Firecracker Ceremony will take place on February 3 from 11 am to 3:30 pm in Roosevelt Park this year. Besides a big stage featuring cultural performances throughout the day, several lion, dragon and unicorn dance groups can be seen parading via the Mott Street, East Broadway, the Bowery, Elizabeth Street, Bayard Street, and Pell Street.

During the following weekend, you will also enjoy the Chinatown Lunar Parade that passes through several twisting Chinatown streets and features marching bands, decorated floats, musicians, magicians, lion and dragon dances, acrobats, and processions. The parade will start from the Mott Street and will pass via the Mott, Canal, and Bayard streets from 11:30 am on February 6th, which will last until 4 pm. Similar flashy parades are also seen in the other Chinatowns of the city such as in the one that is in Flushing in the borough of Queens.

Greet the rabbit of the year and enjoy the Lion Dance at the China Institute on 125 East 65th Street on February 6 at 11 am for free. The dance as the folk tradition is done by the martial artists as well as acrobats draped in colorful costumes and escorted by the gongs and drums. As this one is very famous, it is recommended to come here early for a good view. And yes, as this dance is performed on the East 65th Street, be prepared for facing the cold weather. Besides these highlights, the institute will also conduct the Chinese New Year programs for the families on the same day. With the cost of $70 member/$90 non-member that will include a child and adult, you can explore the dumpling (rice preparation) making workshops, a lantern making workshop, lion mask making workshops, and interactive story time.

Lastly, I would recommend joining the Walking Tour that will be conducted on February 5 from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm. This one will start at the MoCA, Museum lobby that is located at the 215 Centre Street and will charge $8-18 per person. This is the best way to experience the liveliness as well as the charm of the Chinese New Year throughout the city. With this English tour, you can explore the New York Chinatown where you can know about the traditions, history, and customs of this colorful festival. And yes, you can also take away some New Year’s treats. If the weather is not suitable, the tour will still take place, but would be in the galleries. As space is limited, you need to register in advance ((212)619-4785). For staying, I would recommend Comfort Inn at Manhattan Bridge from $75 and The Hotel 91 from $70.

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