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Celebrate the Chinese New Year in New York

Authored By: 
Linli Chin, Science Teacher

Xin Nian Kwai Le! Gong Xi! Gong Xi Fa Cai! This is the traditional Chinese greeting that families, friends and neighbors address each other with during Chinese Lunar New Year. It translates to “Happy New Year! Wishing you happiness and prosperity! This year, 2015, which happens to be the year 4714 on the Chinese Lunar Calendar, will be celebrated on February 19th ushering in the year of the Ram. The Chinese Zodiac consists of 12 animals, and their legends are often told by the elderly members of the community as they pass on the customs and rituals to the younger generations. The “Legend of the Great Race” begins with Buddha summoning the animals to bid him farewell as he departs Earth; he said he would reward the first 12 animals that came to him by naming the years after them in the order of their appearance. The order of the animals were:

  1. Rat
  2. Ox
  3. Tiger
  4. Rabbit
  5. Dragon
  6. Snake
  7. Horse
  8. Ram
  9. Monkey
  10. Rooster
  11. Dog
  12. Boar

Similar to western Astrology, the Chinese believe that the animal of your birth year has a strong influence on your personality, character, love life and even physical attributes! If you have no idea what your “animal sign” is, find out here and reveal what it says about you!

Although the celebrations last for two weeks, the first three days are the most important. The night before the New Year, families get together for a reunion dinner that rivals a Thanksgiving dinner feast. At midnight, it is common to hear firecrackers booming around the neighborhood, which is done to ward off the mythical beast, Nian, which would come on the first day to eat crops, livestock and even children. The reason why the color red is significant during the Chinese Lunar New Year is also due to this mythological creature, who is afraid of the color red.

On the first day, children awake to don brand new clothes and serve tea to their elders as they ask for forgiveness for any wrongdoings during the past year and seek guidance in the coming year. Elders offer children red packets called Ang Pow that contain money to aid in any challenges in the coming year. Families and friends visit one another and will have the opportunity to see an energetic “Lion Dance” as a symbolic ritual to usher in the Chinese New Year as well as to evict bad spirits from the premises.

For your chance to experience some of the amazing sights, sounds and tastes of Chinese Lunar New Year in New York City, it is all less than a month away. The 16th Annual Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade in New York will take place at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 22, 2015. The spectacle features elaborate floats, marching bands, lion and dragon dances galore, Asian musicians, magicians, acrobats and a procession by local NYC organizations. A list of various organizations that are celebrating this energetic festival are also available here, which includes activities in the five boroughs for young and old alike. Here’s wishing you the very best the coming new year has to offer, Gong Xi! Gong Xi!

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