Chinese New Year is not like America’s New Years Eve, which is on January 1. Instead, it is celebrated on February 16, 2018 and ends with the Spring Lantern Festival on March 2, almost two weeks of festivities in New York City’s Chinatown and its boroughs.
The Year of The Dog
Each year we celebrate a zodiac animal and as preparations are starting, we are ushering in the dog from last year’s Year of the Rooster. The dog is thought of as a faithful guardian and loyal friend to mankind according to the Chinese. The holiday marks the beginning of a new lunar according to the traditional Chinese calendar and the celebrations are also referred to as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival. But the new year is not just about spectacles and commemorations. It is also a time that honors household and heavenly deities, as well as a period where Asian families get to bond and come together over food, drink and Chinese activities practiced for centuries.
You can expect several events over the holiday, such as attending traditional Chinese dances, listening to both ancient and contemporary live Chinese music, enjoying the martial arts demonstrations, being taught Chinese arts and crafts, and being a part of a parade full of floats, musicians, among others. And most events during these weeks include Southern Chinese iconic Chinese dragon and lion dances, a celebration that no Chinese New Year can do without.
Chinese New Year In New York City
Chinese New Year is celebrated all over the world, but here in New York, we think we’re in the best city to host the festivities because of the sheer and dizzying amount of various performances, shows, and food that will take place during the entire Spring Festival. We’ve given you the top ten highlights to celebrate the new year, but note that there are many more, including the celebrated Fantastic Art China at the Metropolitan Pavilion that starts on February 15 and ends on the 19th of that month and the Lunar New Year Dragon Dance at Lincoln Center Plaza on February 20.
1. Lunar New Year Celebration for Families
Queens Museum, Flushing, Queens
Date: Sun February 4
Cost: Free with suggested donation
Held at the Queens Museum in coordination with the New York City Chinese Cultural Center (NYCCC), this festival offers costumed folk dances, traditional arts and crafts, and workshops dedicated for all families to enjoy. Queens Museum experts will host workshops such as the making of LED-powered paper lanterns. Starting at 3pm for an hour, the NYCCC will host a calligraphy art making workshop by a NYCCC instructor to demonstrate the art of Chinese activity that has been in place for centuries. This fun event allows children and anyone young at heart to try the calligraphy and to take home paintings that they have drawn themselves. There will also be a one-hour performance featuring professional artists and students of NYCCC’s School of the Arts. Highlights include Chinese Kung Fu demonstrations, dances, iconic performances such as the mischievous lion, songs using traditional Chinese instruments and the award-winning red ribbon dance.
2. The Temple Fairs
137-35 Northern Blvd, Flushing
Date: February 10 and February 11
Time: Starting at 11am
Admission: $5/$3 Members (Teens 13-19 free with ID)
Chinese people have celebrated the new year by going to temple fairs for centuries. This year, the 4th Annual Temple Bazaar at the Flushing Town Hall happens on two days, February 10, Saturday, and the next day, February 11, Sunday. Underneath red paper lanterns, there will be performances of traditional Hui and Huangmei opera, which are two types of Chinese operas that originated in the An-hui province. The 3-hour event features folk songs and dances. You can also learn traditional Chinese crafts like paper cutting and calligraphy, as well as sample food from Shandong, China and Taiwan.
3. Madison Street to Madison Avenue: A Lunar New Year Celebration
527 Madison Avenue, New York, NY (starting location)
Date: Saturday, Feb 10
Time: 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM
This Lunar New Year Celebration starts at 11 in the morning and ends at 3pm, and the opening ceremony is on Madison Avenue at East 76th Street that will feature large costumed lion dancers.
If you have a dog, this is a rare opportunity for you to shop with it at the many exclusive shops lining Madison Avenue as part of the ceremony and to celebrate the year of the dog. Until 3pm, you and your dog can follow the lion troupe dancers down Madison that stretches between uptown to midtown, starting at 86th street and ending at 54th street, to visit fifty Madison Avenue retailers, boutiques and businesses that each will celebrate the year of the dog in its own pet-friendly way, in order to support The American Medical Center. Some stores participating in the event include Frette, Giorgio Armani, Jonathan Adler, Kate Spade, Morgenthal Frederics, and many, many others. At Barbour (1047 Madison Ave,) there will be treats for you and your dog, along with a photo booth. At Carolina Herrera (954 Madison Avenue), there will be gourmet dog treats and at Etro (720 Madison Avenue), the store will be serving chocolates, champagne, doggy treats and Chinese candy. And at Stuart Weitzman (625 Madison Avenue), you get to own a Stuart Weitzman exclusive red packet gift free with any in-store purchase. Finally, at Tory Burch (797 Madison Avenue) you can get a complimentary and exclusive Lunar New Year scarf when you spend $500 or more.
Click HERE for a complete listing of participating retail stores.
Additionally, at the closing of the event, which takes place on East 54th Street on Madison Avenue between 2-3pm, there will be a free event for families that feature, among others, face painting and the teaching of calligraphy, as well as dog-friendly activities. In addition, there will also be martial arts and performances from the New York Eastern Chamber Orchestra, the Chinese Theatre Works and the Martial Arts by Sitan. At the Harmon Store (527 Madison Avenue) the Animal Medical Center will have a booth so that people can have a chance to make a charitable donation.
Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Kumble Theater
200 Campus Road, Flatbush
Date: February 11
Time: approximately two hours including one intermission
Admission: $25 adults, $12.50 children
The Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts will feature new Chinese music and dances to usher in the Year of the Dog, including oversized dog costumes that will delight kids. The renowned Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company is the feature act at this mini-festival, and its dancers and acrobats dressed in vibrant costumes will perform traditional dances alongside live music by the Chinese Music Ensemble of New York. There will also be a special performance by the world’s most famous acrobat and Guinness Book of World Records holder Lina Liu.
5. A Chinese New Year Celebration by the China Institute
The Pierre Hotel, 2 East 61st Street, New York City
Date: Tuesday, February 13
Time: 6:30 Cocktail Reception, 7:30 Dinner
Admission: tax deductible tickets that start from $150 and go up to $25,000 for a table with ten guests.
For those looking for something more sophisticated to celebrate the Year of the Dog, and for those who have money, the China Institute, a non-profit that promotes the appreciation of Chinese heritage, will host its annual dinner gala, with proceeds from this very special and intimate event going to CI’s educational programs. The festive attire party will feature a cocktail reception, a formal dinner, and special cultural performances.
Sara D. Roosevelt Park (Grand & Chrystie St.), New York
Date: Friday, February 16
Firecracker kick-off: 12pm
The Better Chinatown Society is ringing in the new year with its free annual firecracker ceremony that is said to ward off evil spirits and unfriendliness. Additionally, the importance of fireworks in Chinese culture is symbolic of cleansing the land and welcoming spring, a time of regrowth. The festivities, which take place in Manhattan’s Chinatown at Roosevelt Park, will include more than this kick-off. But. of course, the fireworks are the most popular attraction for this event, so get there by 12 noon to see the lights, the sparks, the bangs and the general loudness and colorfulness of the firecrackers. After the fireworks, you can enjoy the performances of Asian-American singers and dancers on a large stage, as well as drummers, lions, unicorns and dragon dance troupes who will be performing throughout Chinatown, from Mott to Bowery and from Bayard to Elizabeth Street. The festival will also feature traditional Chinese food.
7. Queens Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration
St. George’s Church, 135-32 38th Ave, Flushing, Queens
Date: Saturday, February 17
Flushing gets its own New Year parade because Queens has a very large Chinese population. Which is why, each year, the parade gets bigger and better to compete with New York City’s own parade. There will be dragon dancers, steel drummers and firecrackers, a cornucopia of excitement, rich spectacle, and lots of crowds. Unlike other events, this festival is complete with food. Visitors can get together at local dim sum palaces to enjoy traditional Chinese delicacies.
8. Moon Over Manhattan! Celebrate Lunar New Year
The Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue, Upper East Side, New York
New York, NY
Date: Saturday, February 17
Admissions: $12 adults, $5 children
The Asia Society opens its doors for a new year extravaganza that will include performances like the Lion Dance, a musical act, a kung fu assembly and traditional crafts that visitors can try that are part of the Lunar New Year tradition across Asia.
9. The Annual NYC Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade and Festival
Chinatown, Lower Manhattan, New York City
Date: Sunday, February 25
Parade kick-off: 1:00pm
This is the event you’ve been waiting for, a fantastic parade held on a different day than the Firecracker Ceremony and Culture Festival. Taking place entirely in Chinatown (and passing some streets in Little Italy), the roads will be full of beautiful floats, the customary lion and dragon dances, marching bands, acrobats, dancers and even stilt walkers who will all have to weave through Chinatown’s crowded and bustling streets. This street extravaganza will also feature people dressed up in red and gold and painted faces or masks. The confetti-studded route will also include the best Chinese foods in Chinatown, as various vendors will be out and about, tempting you to try their goods. Like the Thanksgiving parade, get to Chinatown early to experience the full parade from start to finish. It’ll definitely be worth it.
The parade assembles on Mott and Hester streets and starts at 1pm toward Canal Street to Chatham Square. From there, the parade marches on East Broadway, towards the Manhattan Bridge, and, before ending, it hits Eldridge and Forsyth streets toward Grand Street, which is right next to Roosevelt Park, where you can continue the festivities at the park’s outdoor performance.
Last year, there were more than 5,000 participants who marched in this festive parade.
10. The Chinese Lantern Festival
Date: March 2
The last day of Chinatown’s festivities will conclude with the Lantern Festival, which is on March 2nd and is the 15th lunar day of the first lunar month. The Lantern Festival marks the end of the Chinese New Year period of 2018, and is also the night of the first full moon in the Chinese calendar. As it ushers in spring for growth, the lighting of lanterns is a tradition that many people use to wish themselves good years to come, as well as their family’s own luck.
The ceremony also symbolizes a time where families get together to be merry and eat Chinese specialties. The consumption of sweet rice balls or dumplings (tangyuan) are an important part of the Lantern festival. It’s made of sweet rice flour and filled with various ingredients such as red bean or peanut butter paste. Because tangyuan are in the shape of balls, and served in round bowls, the Chinese believe eating these centuries-old treats symbolizes wholeness and togetherness. You too can celebrate like the Chinese by going to many dim-sum palaces or Chinese vendors in Chinatown.
The most important custom of the day is the celebration and lighting of paper lanterns, whether they are flying or are held, whether they are shaped into globes or dragons. On March 2, the lanterns can be seen everywhere in places that celebrate the Chinese New Year, which include households, parks, streets and various retailers. The lighting of lanterns also includes the guessing of lantern riddles, as well as bright flying drones. But above all, this is the day when families come together to celebrate the time they have with each other. We wouldn’t have this in any other way.