Lunar New Year Brings Out Dragons and Dim Sum

By Daisy Chen ’19, Jared Hwee ’19, and Jeanelle Louie ’19
You might wake up startled this February 16 to the sounds of loud drums, the oh-so-elegant noise of crash cymbals, and the crackling and banging of fireworks. What is causing all of this noise, you may ask? It’s the 2018 Lunar New Year parade. But don’t go back to sleep. Instead, go outside and enjoy the Asian culture that is right at your doorstep.

Each year is named given by its respective zodiac animal on the Chinese lunar calendar. This year is the year of the dog, which occurs every 12 years. There are 12 zodiac animals on the calendar: snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, pig, rat, ox, tiger, rabbit and dragon. People who are born during these years are given that specific animal as their zodiac sign. This is the year for all the people whose zodiac sign is the dog.

People spend their Lunar New Year in their own unique ways. Some go out to “yumcha” (more popularly known as “dimsum”) with their families, others go out to the parades, to the temple to pray to the ancestors, or to a feast with their families. Dimsum is an Asian styled cuisine that is primarily served during breakfast time and is served “family style.” Family style is the ordering of dishes that is shared between everyone instead of each individual eating their own dish.

“It’s special for me because it’s one of few days the entire family gets together for the
traditional New Year’s dinner,” said Celine Lam ’18.

“My family makes fried dumplings and stir fried noodles,” said Jia Ci Deng ’19. “The dumplings represent wealth and the rice noodles represent long life. The family dinner is overwhelming but it is an amazing feeling to be together as a family.”

Chinese New Year is also the time for married couples to give money to their family members in red envelopes. Gong xi fa cai (Gong hay fat choy) means “wishing you a prosperous year, too.” This is how people who are giving and receiving red envelopes will greet one another.

The parades contain all the different types of nationalities. Parades can be found all throughout the five boroughs of New York City. In Brooklyn, parades can be found on 8th Avenue and Avenue U; in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, parades can be found in Chinatown on Grand Street and in the Chelsea area; in Flushing, Queens, parades can be found all over. These areas are filled primarily with Asian communities that often celebrate the New Year.

The parades include dragon and lion dancers, which form a group of three or four people under a costume. The group moves the heads of these animals to make them seem like they’re dancing.

“I love going to the parade in Manhattan because that’s where you see the best dragon and lion dancers,” said Wilson Lu ’19. “The dancing is unique and intricate, and the dragon costume itself is nice bright colors that mesmerise the viewer. You cannot have a Chinese New Year parade without the dancing, they’re a key component to any parade.”

These dances are often followed by music, and the drums and the cymbals are always found during these dances. In addition to parades on the sidewalks, the parade also goes inside of stores and restaurants to dance.

“I get overwhelmed when I hear drumming during the parade because it reminds me of my childhood,” said Christine Kwan ’19. “Though it is really loud, I enjoy the music played during these parades.”

“We all gather at one relative’s house and we eat, trade red envelopes, stares, and negative comments in the form of jokes,” said Timothy Mei ’18.

Red is a popular color among the Asian community, especially on the day of Lunar New Year. It is seen on clothes, the special envelopes, and even on the dragons and lions. Signs are embroidered in gold lining and gold lettering to really show off the new year.

“Red is always the color to wear during the New Year,” said Lam. “It symbolizes wealth, good health, good luck, and prosperity.”

People may wear anything red in order to celebrate the New Year, and some people may go all out to show how much they care. Vendors sell red dresses for young girls and women and include outfits for young boys.

Another thing that is done in the city is visiting a temple. The people are given the opportunity to pray to the ancestors and pray for family members’ well-being, finance, safety, and stability. The process is completed by getting on your knees in front of the statue and bowing three times, and once that is complete, the person places the incense into a pot of ashes.

“I pray for my family members and their good health when I go to the temple,” said Lu.
Tiffany Huynh ’19 said, “During Chinese New Year, I go to temples and pray for good luck.”
Many Chinese New Year traditions revolve around good luck. Superstitions are important because if they are neglected, it is believed to lead to bad luck for a whole year. You may be familiar with not taking medicine on the first day, and if you do, that means you’re going to be sick.

“There are a bunch of superstitions,” said Fanny Zhao ’19. “For example, I always cut my hair before Chinese New Year because it represents starting fresh with a new year. I cannot cut it or wash my hair the day of because it would get rid of the good luck. We always clean the house the day before and we cannot sweep or clean the day
of because it would mean cleaning away our good luck.”

“During Chinese New Year we like to cook a feast, and we pray to our ancestors,” said Yong Wu ’19. “The festivals are always very loud and crowded. People like to use firecrackers, and we like wearing new clothes to represent a new year, and, yes I do feel closer to my culture because I learn more about it over Chinese New Year, but most importantly, we get red envelopes.”

The parades and the food are not exclusive to Asian people; all people can go out and explore the Asian culture. This can be done by going to eat dimsum, watching a lion dance, or shooting off some fireworks.

“I enjoy going to the Lunar New Year parade because it allows me to go out of my comfort zone and enjoy a differ- ent culture from that of my own,” said Ari Gonzalez ’18. “The food is amazing, and the dancing is something to be watched. I would recommend it to anyone who hasn’t gone to see a parade.”

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