Almost Time to Greet the Water Dragon

Home to a mixture of diverse communities, New York City boasts an array of cultural traditions and celebrations. While immigrants adopt various facets of Western practices in their new homes in America, they proudly retain their unique cultural heritage—a reason for the many events commemorating each nation’s traditions. By attending some of these events, you catch glimpses of another country’s heritage—without the need for passports, lengthy waits on lines at the airport or long transcontinental flights.

In less than a week, the Big Apple plays host to another annual festivity—one that involves firecrackers, poppers with colored confetti, lion dances, parades, bright red and gold lanterns and red envelopes holding crisp bills in small or large denominations, usually given to kids. Such are a sampling of the traditions that characterize this beautiful event for the Chinese community. And what a great reason for everyone to enjoy another new year’s celebration!

On Monday, January 23, 2012, a number of events will be taking place all over the world to celebrate the Lunar New Year—the Year of the Dragon.

Where to Celebrate in Manhattan, New York

If you’re visiting Manhattan during the 15-day celebration, here are a few places where you can go with your young ones.

Sunday, January 22 – Why not head to the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) and get acquainted with some Chinese customs and culture?

    From 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., enjoy some family-friendly activities at the Lunar New Year Festival Family Day. Attend one of the gallery tours that start at 10:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Bring the kids to a workshop and find out what the Lion Dance means and perhaps even participate as a dancer. Practice some Mandarin phrases, or try your hand at calligraphy. Watch some festival dances, including those performed with silk ribbons and peace drums.

    General admission is $10; MOCA members and children ages 1 and under are free.

Monday, January 23 – Greet the dragon with a firecracker ceremony, which starts at 11:00 a.m. at Roosevelt Park (Grand and Hester streets). Up until 3:30 p.m., there’ll be singers and dancers, a parade along various streets in Chinatown and many Asian-American artists to entertain the crowd. If you plan on attending, arrive early, as this event gets very crowded. But, you’ll definitely see (and hear), lots of firecrackers.

    Tip: While you’re enjoying the festivities, listen for the peace drums and look around for small groups of people, including a lion or two standing in front of a retail venue. If you see heads of cabbage being tossed on the street, in front of that store, accompanied by loud drum beats, and the dancing lions pretending to devour those cabbage heads, you’re witnessing a custom thought to ward off evil spirits. This ushers in good luck and prosperity for that business and its owners.

    Fun facts about the Dragon:

  • According to tradition, the Dragon is one of 12 animals in the Chinese calendar. If your birth year is one of the following: 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000 and 2012—then, like my daughter, you were born under the Dragon.
  • Each animal is thought to bestow the qualities of individuals born in that particular year. Those born under the Dragon are passionate, brave, confident, enterprising, intelligent, stubborn, flamboyant and generous. They exhibit leadership qualities.
  • The 2012 Dragon is the Water Dragon, which is thought to bring forth a calming quality to the Dragon’s natural “fire” characteristic. They are open minded and take other people’s opinions into consideration.
  • The Dragon’s lucky color is yellow. What’s yours?
  • Individuals born under the Dragon are perfect partners to those born under the Rat, Rooster and Monkey.

Sunday, January 2913th Annual Lunar New Year Parade & Festival. From 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., a parade will go down Mott, Canal and Bayard streets, and along East Broadway. Feast your eyes on the colorful floats, and the agile lion dancers as you enjoy the tunes emanating from the marching bands.

Food Culture

As with most celebrations, it wouldn’t be complete without sampling traditional fare. Chinese food culture is a blend of numerous influences.

On December 8, 2011, my husband and I attended a press event hosted by the Press Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in New York, where we had the pleasure of meeting Master Chef Jan and Ninchi Fang, a tea master from Fang Gourmet Tea.

To read about our tasting adventure that evening, click on “Food Culture in Taiwan”.

Watch Master Chef Jan exhibit the carving skills that helped him garner his many international awards.

Steep your own cup of tea, sit back and relax as Ninchi Fang hosts a tea ceremony.

As you traverse Chinatown, top off your trip by visiting one of the surrounding restaurants. Among our family favorites for Chinese food are Peking Duck House on 28 Mott Street and Noodle Village on 13 Mott Street.

What Does Your Fortune Say?

Over this past weekend, my family and I ate at the Noodle Village, and as we always do, we reached for those fortune cookies at the end of our meal. If the fortune from my two cookies (there were extras) are indicators to what 2012 and the Year of the Dragon holds for Editorial Creatives, then a year of prosperity awaits (yes!).

Let me share them with all of you. Don’t you agree they’re pretty auspicious fortunes?

“If you think you can, you can.”

“A good time to start something new.”

Hmmm…Maybe we should all play these numbers: 23, 32, 4, 48, 35 and 10 and see if they’re part of what will help ring in some of the year’s good fortune.

Do you celebrate Chinese New Year? Do you also check your fortune, and keep the ones you like? If you’ve visited Manhattan’s Chinatown area, do you have favorite restaurants you like to frequent?

To our readers of Chinese ancestry, Editorial Creatives wishes you “Happy New Year”. Gong Xi Fa Cai (Mandarin) and Gong Hey Fat Choy (Cantonese).

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