Happy New Year of the Snake
Traveling the world at few or no expenses is one of the many things that I love about New York City. There’s of course nothing like an actual trip abroad that comes with the planning, the packing, and the journey itself. And then there also is the ever growing bucket-list: Celebrate Cinco de Mayo, experience Holi, and party at the Chinese New Year. In New York, you can have it all.
New York’s Chinese American community has celebrated the Chinese Lunar New Year with an annual parade and festival since a decade. Held each year on a Sunday in February, the parade starts in Little Italy and winds its way through Chinatown. Colorful floats, lion and dragon dancers, acrobats, and thousands of people parade through Chinatown’s historic streets. A symbol of fire, the color red dominates the festivities: People wear red clothes, decorate windows and doors with red paper-cuts, and give money in red paper envelopes.
I was amazed by the amount of confetti showered down over the specators, which remained in the streets for days after the parade. And even if you miss out on this main event, there’s still plenty to see: The new year is celebrated with numerous performances, flower markets, and festivals. Colorful dragons wind through the stunned spectators and dance in the streets, every now and then poking their head in one of the stores. And be prepared for a lot of noise – a wild mixture of music, drums, and firecrackers.
Half a million visitors line the streets of Chinatown for the parade, so it’s best to arrive early. The best viewing is said to be on Allen Street between Canal and Grand. Unknown by many, there also is a Chinatown in Flushing, Queens where another parade is held. So when checking the events schedule, make sure to travel to the right destination.
The Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is the longest and most important of the traditional Chinese holiday celebrations. The festivities take place on 15 consecutive days and are aligned to the lunar calendar with new moon marking the beginning of each month. New Year celebrations start on darkest day of the first month of the new year, and continue until the Lantern Festival on the 15th day, when the moon is brightest. The Chinese year 4711 – the year of the snake – began on February 10, 2013 and ends on January 30, 2014. Happy New Year!