One of the traditional Chinese New Year activities is to set off firecrackers at midnight to celebrate the arrival of the Lunar New Year. While some people still do this in New York City, it's illegal (and unsafe) for individuals to set off fireworks, so there is a formal New Year's Day Firecracker Ceremony & Cultural Festival organized by several Chinatown-based organizations in New York City.
In addition to setting off rockets and firecrackers, there are lion dances, drumming, and dancing.
Many community organizations have booths at the festival, some offering giveaways/contests and some selling traditional Chinese New Year items. After the Firecracker Ceremony, there is a parade through the streets of Chinatown that begins at Sara D. Roosevelt Park. It's truly a neighborhood celebration that lots of local families participate in and being a part (or even just witnessing) this special event is memorable.
Advice and Tips for Attending the Festival
- Arrive by 11:15 a.m. for the best viewing spots.
- Dress warmly -- it's easy to get cold standing in the same place while you wait for the firecrackers to begin. February tends to be a cold month and if it's not sunny, it's easy to get a chill while you're waiting for the action to start.
- Maybe it goes without saying, but there will be lots of noise and smoke. If you're sensitive to this, you should choose a location that isn't too close to the events. This is something to keep in mind if you're attending the event with children -- it can be a bit overwhelming and you might find yourself having to leave if you have young kids that can't handle it.
- Many restaurants in Chinatown are closed on New Year's Day. If you have your heart set on dining somewhere in particular, you should call ahead. Or plan to head out of the neighborhood for a meal afterward. (There are lots of great places to eat on the Lower East Side or even in SoHo and it's not too far to walk.)
Easy Ways to Get There
- The festival is held in Sara D. Roosevelt Park. The Park runs from Canal to East Houston between Forsyth and Chrystie Streets.
- Take the 6 train to Canal Street and walk east along Canal Street past the Manhattan Bridge and take a left on Chrystie Street. The events are held between Grand and Hester Streets.
- Street parking in Chinatown is very difficult. Taking public transportation or utilizing a parking garage is highly recommended.