Huge Dragons Dance in Chinatown

29 Jan

Leading up to one of the most important traditional Chinese holidays, the lunar New Year, families come together from all parts of the city and converge in the narrow streets on Chinatown to celebrate the New Year. This years’ festival welcomes the mighty Dragon and parade sponsors, Better Chinatown Society, pulled out all the stops to make the parade a grand success. Rachel and I made our way to Mott St. in Little Italy and saw the floats getting decorated and heard the drummers warming up in preparation for what would be a spectacular show of Chinese culture and tradition. The warmer than usual January weather helped bring the crowd of hundreds of thousands out as they waited in anticipation of dancing lions and dragons. Before the parade could kick off, the traditional lion dance and eating of the lettuce must occur. It is a symbolic dance that goes back over 1000 years. After the lion eats the green, it disbursed the leaves to the crowd for wealth and good fortune to all those present. Some important politicians and VIPs held on to the long poles dangling the head of lettuce while the lions tore into the greens. The parade was set to kick off down the parade route in grand style.

         

     At the head of the parade was a huge banner from the parade sponsors announcing the year 4709 as the Year of the Dragon soon followed by one of the more lively dancing lion groups from Staten Island that got the crowd worked up for a fun celebration.  A procession of dancing dragons and lions made their way down Mott St. while some parade-goers made their offering of putting money in the lion’s mouth for good luck.  One of the best things to see is how the parade brings the young and older generations together in a common theme – hope and well-being for the New Year. According to Mr. Steven Tin, founder of Better Chinatown Society, a special invitation was made to 4 schools from Beijing, China from them and a school from Chinatown. For the first time in the 13 years of the parade history, over 240 High School students made the voyage from the mainland to be in the parade. It must have been quite an experience for them to visit from one grand metropolis to another. A definite crowd pleaser was the all girl dancers in their colorful costumes and nicely choreographed dance routine. They were soon followed by a formidable marching band from the High School Affiliated with the Beijing College of Petroleum. They can compete with many American bands although their style was a little different, they kept good pace and steps and had a clear crisp sound. It was great to see musical expression from half way around the world right here in NYC.  The fun got kicked up a notch when a group of Chinese Freemasons brought their show of 9 dancing lions. Their special dance routine was a definite crowd pleaser. Shortly behind them was the highlight of the parade. Two huge dancing dragons weaved their way from one side of the street to the other to greet the crowd.  They often intertwined so you didn’t know where one began and where the other one ended. The sponsors of the dual dancing dragons, The World Journal, spent months in preparation for the event. Next up was the Golden Dragon greeting the crowd.

            

            

     Chinese culture and tradition has always emphasized good health by eating properly and exercise. The fittest of the group have been steered towards acrobatic movements and that was evident in two black dancing lions when one dancer climbed on the other’s shoulders to dance while the other marched. Behind them were the martial arts students showing their skills to the members in the reviewing stand. One of the local schools with the best representation of tradition and culture was the Desoto School PS 130M. They did a great job. At the tail end of the parade appeared a float from USChinaPress with several ladies dressed in colorful traditional costumes followed by another group of Beijing students from High School No. 161 carrying a banner wishing everyone a Happy Spring Festival.  It might be a little early for spring in NYC, but in Beijing it coincides with the end of winter.  Rachel and I met up just in time for a real treat. On the sponsor’s float sat a 500 lb. cake decorated with two dragons on top and a massive house as the main part of the cake. Trust me the chocolate cake was one of the most delicious I’ve had in a while. If it’s from the Cake Boss, you know it has to be excellent. The parade ended in Roosevelt Park where more of the Chinese tradition and culture  was displayed for all New Yorkers and tourists to appreciate. As Rachel and I made our way back to Mott St. where my favorite Chinese restaurant is, Wo Hop (17 Mott St. downstairs), we couldn’t help notice all the buzz of people buying memorabilia to take home. Even more impressive was the amount of confetti on the ground. Just looking at it you knew that was one heck of a parade and that it was.

                        

GUNG HAY FAT CHOY

Next parade: Chinese Lunar New Year on Sat February 4th 11am. Flushing Queens. Union St and 39th Ave.

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