The Year of the Dragon is upon us, roaring in and carrying with it an array of exciting cultural festivities. This Lunar New Year, celebrated on January 23, marks the 4,709th year on the Chinese calendar. Regarded as one of the most important holidays in the Far East, Lunar New Year is customarily celebrated with a lively parade — complete with a fiery, ornate dragon — and a colorful fireworks display.
Each year is named for one of the 12 figures of the Chinese zodiac. According to Kathy Hung, executive director of the New York Chinese Cultural Center, the Year of the Dragon — the sixth figure of the zodiac — symbolizes royalty and many feel it is extremely lucky to have a baby born during this year.
Hung added that those observing the holiday spend Lunar New Year’s Eve with their relatives, collectively attempting to stay awake as long as possible. She remarked that staying up late is done while holiday observers pray for longer life and luck in the New Year. Envelopes are traditionally handed out to members of the family, enclosed with letters of good fortune. Children generally receive money on this holiday, so that they may purchase new clothing and other necessary items for the New Year.
Families observing the holiday will string traditional decorations such as glowing red paper lanterns and banners inscribed with phrases like “good fortune,” “happiness” and “longevity” throughout their homes. Messages of luck are abundant during this holiday, as it signifies the future and plentiful opportunity.
According to Hung, firecrackers are traditionally set off during the holiday to scare away evil.
New Yorkers hoping to celebrate the Lunar New Year need not look very far. On January 29, Chinatown will ignite with New Year spirit as a parade dances through lower Manhattan.
In Queens on February 4, Flushing will flood with festival goers watching the 16th annual Lunar New Year Parade as it makes its way down Main Street. Booths dishing out ethnic treats are set to line the streets for attendees hoping to grab a tasty snack while watching a beautiful fireworks display.
Flushing Town Hall is hosting a variety of events as well over the weekend of February 4 and 5. A free dance sampler will he held on February 4, displaying a variety of performances in styles from China, Korea, India, Thailand, Taiwan and the Pacific Islands. On February 5, participants can craft their own Chinese dragons while learning about the creature’s wise and prosperous characteristics. Instructors will also teach attendees how to make lucky Korean bags, traditionally made to contain wishes for the upcoming year.