Although it is always in January or February, and not usually on the same day each year, Chinese New Year is the celebration of the lunar and solar annual cycle. This date is celebrated by almost all East Asian cultures on the same day, and as such, it is more appropriately named the Asian Lunar New Year. Each lunar year celebrates one of the 12 animals of the Chinese calendar.
Manhattan Events Celebrating the Lunar New Year
The Lunar New Year celebrations are grand spectacles of firecrackers, lion dancers, acrobats and martial artists. The loud bangs of the firecrackers are symbolic of cleansing the land and welcoming spring and a new growth cycle.
New York City is home to the highest concentration of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere. In Manhattan's Chinatown alone, there is an estimated population of 150,000 people in two square miles. Chinatown is one of 12 Chinese neighborhoods in New York City, which has one of the oldest Chinese ethnic enclaves in the U.S.
Other countries that celebrate the Lunar New Year at the same time as the Chinese community are the Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Mongolian, Tibetan communities, and cities with vast Asian communities.
Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival
The Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival takes place in Manhattan's Chinatown at Roosevelt Park between Grand and Hester streets. The firecracker detonation, which draws the local politicians and community leaders, wards off evil spirits. A large stage features all-day cultural performances by traditional and contemporary Asian-American singers and dancers. Plus, a dozen lion, dragon, and unicorn dance troupes march through Chinatown’s main streets, including Mott Street, the Bowery, East Broadway, Bayard Street, Elizabeth Street, and Pell Street.
Annual Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade & Festival
Held on a different day than the Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival, the Annual Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade begins at Mott and Hester streets, winds throughout Chinatown down Mott, along East Broadway, up Eldridge Street to Forsyth Street. The spectacle features elaborate floats, marching bands, lion and dragon dances galore, Asian musicians, magicians, acrobats and procession by local organizations. More than 5,000 people are expected to march in the parade. The parade usually concludes at 3 p.m., at which time an outdoor cultural festival will take place at Roosevelt Park featuring more performances by musicians, dancers, and martial artists.
Chinese New Year Celebration by the China Institute
The China Institute is a bicultural, non-profit organization in Manhattan that promotes the appreciation of Chinese heritage and provides the historical context for understanding contemporary China. Annually, the organization hosts an annual dinner celebration in honor of the Lunar New Year. Proceeds from the event benefit the organization's education programs.
Lunar New Year Symbolism
Regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the Chinese New Year vary widely. Often, the evening preceding Chinese New Year's Day is an occasion for Chinese families to gather for the annual reunion dinner. It is also traditional for every family to thoroughly clean the house, in order to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for incoming good luck. Windows and doors are decorated with red color paper cut-outs wishing good fortune, happiness, wealth, and longevity.