Large crowds of people gathered on Canal Street in Chinatown, Manhattan on Sunday morning, despite the chilly winter air and the light drizzling rain. The streets were lined with costumed lion dancers, dragon dancers, decorated floats and bundled up parade volunteers holding mini Chinese and American flags, red balloons and confetti canons. The sidewalk was packed to the point where no one could move without stepping on someone’s toes.
It was that time of year again; when people around the country and all around the world gathered with their family and friends and embellished their houses with red and gold decorations to celebrate the new year. Each year, this widely known holiday falls on a different day depending on the lunar calendar. According to old folk customs, the new year falls on the 23rd day of the twelfth lunar month, and each new year is accompanied by a different zodiac animal. This year is the year of the dog.
There are twelve different zodiac animals: (in order) the rat, the ox, the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the goat, the monkey, the rooster, the dog and the pig. According to a Chinese legend, the zodiac animals have their own personality traits and are based on a race organized by the Jade Emperor. The order was dependent on who crossed the finish line. This widespread Chinese myth has many different variations but always ends the same way; the rat finished in first place and the pig finished last.
Each new year celebration is carried out by traditions with unique style and decorations, depending on the zodiac animal and different cultural rituals. Lunar new year celebrations in America are generally based on Chinese traditions and celebrated in Chinatowns and big cities, such as New York City and Philadelphia.
A celebration as widely acclaimed as the lunar new year hardly ever goes untouched by artistic organizations such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan. The museum hosted a series of events and workshops on Saturday to celebrate the new year and encourage others to learn more about Chinese traditions and cultural rituals.
The event started off with a lion dance in The Great Hall. As the lion dancers made their way into the building, crowds of people made their way to the center of the room to watch the performance. The hall was filled with a mixed horde of citizens and foreigners gathering around to take in the unique, ethnic experience. The workshops offered by the museum included fan painting, hand drum and fan dancing, bubble tea making and a hand-pulled noodle demonstration with a master chef.
The fan painting workshop was very popular amongst young children attending the event. The room and seats quickly filled up with parents and kids eager to create beautiful masterpieces. Many of the children wasted no time in getting their brushes wet and hands dirty.
To kick of the new year, citizens of Chinatown, Manhattan participated in a “year of the dog” parade. Dozens of floats were decorated with red and gold. Many of the volunteers and parade members also wore red to bring good luck and good fortune to themselves and their families for the new year. This yearly celebration never fails to disappoint its crowds. As one woman at the parade said, “I love coming to this parade every year. I believe it is important for my daughter to experience and embrace different cultures.”