Lunar New Year for All New Yorkers

Feb. 8 was Lunar New Year’s Day. For the first time students in New York public schools got a day off. Sing Tao Daily covered the various celebrations activities. Here are experts from three of these stories.

 

A story by Faye Qiu focused on an initiative launched by the Chinatown Partnership to promote the Lunar New Year outside of Chinatown. 

(Photo via Sing Tao Daily)

Lion dancers head into a Madison Avenue store (Photo via Sing Tao Daily)

For the first time, the Lunar New Year is listed as a holiday on the city’s public school calendar. So the celebration is no longer closed-door entertainment for the Chinese. In order to promote Chinatown and the various Lunar New Year celebration activities here, the Chinatown Partnership, a community development organization, charted two double-decker buses on Feb. 6 and brought full buses of dancing dragons and tigers to the main street.

The journey was dubbed Madison Street to Madison Avenue. It started from Madison Street in Chinatown and went along Madison Avenue all the way up to East 76th Street, accompanied by the beating of drums and gongs. An opening ceremony was held at East 76th Street and Madison Avenue and attended by Chinese diplomats, entrepreneurs and American elected officials. The Madison Avenue BID also signed a partnership memo with the Bund Association for Promotion of Commerce and Trade from Shanghai at the ceremony.

Afterward, the lion dancers were divided into four teams, danced along Madison Avenue and went into the shops along the way to deliver New Year’s greetings as they traditionally do in Chinatown. Their presence caused a sensation in the shops. Staff tried to follow the Chinese tradition and feed the “lions” with red envelopes. And the customers all pulled out their cellphones and cameras, trying to catch the happy moment.

Wellington Chen, director of the Chinatown Partnership, said the activity was hosted by his organization together with the Madison Avenue BID, the East Midtown Partnership and SUNY’s Confucius Institute. The purpose was to connect Madison Street and Madison Avenue, bring the New Year atmosphere into the high-end shops in midtown and attract mainstream consumers to Chinatown.

 

Meanwhile, the “Fantastic Art China: International Creative Festival” exhibit at the Jacob Javits Center also added a “New York City Lunar New Year Students Holiday Celebration” segment to introduce the Year of the Monkey to students from all cultural backgrounds. Fan Chen reports:

Monkey dance (Photo via Sing Tao Daily)

Monkey dance (Photo via Sing Tao Daily)

Many students participated in the event with their parents. Among other activities, they watched a film about monkeys and learned a monkey dance.

Matthew Chan, an 8th grader of NEST+m, a public school on the Lower East Side, said he had to take an absence from school in the previous years to celebrate the Lunar New Year with his family. From now on he doesn’t have to feel different from other students because everyone is off and everyone celebrates together on the New Year’s Day.

Jason Mccoy, an African-American father, who came with his son who is in pre-K, said he knew nothing about the Lunar New Year before. Now thanks to the school holiday he is able to participate in the celebration. He also planned to take his son to Chinatown to feel the atmosphere there.

[Editor’s note: Go to SinoVision to watch a video report of the festival.]

 

Yes, everyone is celebrating together, including the mayor. On the Lunar New Year’s Day, Mayor de Blasio came to Chinatown to attend the New Year reception at the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) for the first time. And the atmosphere there with the mayor was comedic. Lotus Chau reports:

This was the first time de Blasio visited the CCBA as mayor. It was also the last New Year reception hosted by Eric Ng, the president of CCBA who is known as the mayor of Chinatown, before he hands the reins to his successor. When the two “mayors” met on the stage, drama was unveiled.

De Blasio, who learned to say the New Year greeting “hou nian da ji” (Good luck in the Year of Monkey) from his Chinese community liaison Tommy Lim, tried to show his language skills. But his pronunciation was far from accurate. No one among the audience in the auditorium understood his words. For a few seconds, they were befuddled, and then one or two claps were heard in a contained and polite way. The mayor realized he didn’t pronounce it correctly. He turned to Ng and asked him to deliver the right version. “I heard you are the mayor of Chinatown,” the mayor added.

Ng looked at the handwritten transcript of the mayor’s. But he couldn’t find the greeting line. He later said the mayor’s handwriting looks more like Vietnamese than English. Finally he found the words “progress in the Year of Monkey.” He decided to directly translate this line into Chinese no matter what the mayor had said. That’s how the ice was broken.

After the reception, the mayor held a regular press conference on the second-floor meeting room of the CCBA. Coincidentally, as in the Blue Room in City Hall, the wall of this meeting room is also blue, only lighter. The mayor stood right in front of the picture of Sun Yat-Sen, the founding father of the Republic of China.

After the press conference, the crowd of mainstream media reporters stayed behind to check with the Chinese whether the person in the picture is Chiang Kai-shek. When the mayor comes to Chinatown, even the mainstream media reporters learn more about Chinese culture.

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