Xin Nian Hao Everyone!
Happy Chinese New Year!
After a long day in the Soup Kitchen (I have to stop doubling up events on days), instead of finishing the walk of the Upper East Side, I decided to head downtown to Chinatown for the first day of Chinese New Year. What a madhouse!
First off, it was a gloomy day. The clouds kept threatening rain which finally came around 4:00 pm but it did not damper everyone’s spirits. The city closed off the main streets of Chinatown, so people were able to walk around Mott, Mulberry, Bayard, Elizabeth Streets and all the side streets around the core of Chinatown.
It was a very festive afternoon of Lion Dances in front of businesses and a non-stop of silly string and firecrackers going off all over the neighborhood. It was fun watching all the kids with the help of their parents set off these long cylinders of confetti and streamers. Nothing gets lost in the translation of the holiday as it was a very diverse crowd of people enjoying the beginning of the New Year. I was able to walk around the neighborhood and watch all the families having a ball watching the lions and the musicians play music and dance in front of the businesses that requested them.
The meaning of firecrackers translates to ‘Baozhu’ or ‘exploding bamboo’ that was used in early years to scare off the evil spirits at the beginning of the New Year. It seems that there was a legend of a monster called ‘Nain’, who used to destroy homes every New Year and the use of burning bamboo used to pop to scare him away. Bamboo was replaced with the invention of fireworks. The cylinder tubes are all colored ‘red’ which is a lucky color in the Chinese culture.
I watched the Lion Dances all over Chinatown. These according to custom are to ward away evil spirits from the businesses and bring prosperity for the New Year. There must have been over a dozen of cultural groups from all over the city hired to visit the businesses during the afternoon. It seems that the loud cymbals evict the bad and evil spirits (the picture above is the ‘Lion Dance’ from the Chinese New Year Celebration that I ran for the Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library in 2011 at the Asian Grill in East Rutherford, NJ).
I walked all over the side streets of Chinatown and stopped in Sara D. Roosevelt Park for the opening festivities of the New Year that were sponsored by Better Chinatown USA. The place was mobbed with people. All the kids were playing games or the families were socializing with one another. It was so busy that I took a walk around the neighborhood, walking through the fringes of what is left of expansion of Chinatown into the Lower East Side, which is quickly gentrifying. The Lower East Side has gotten very hip over the years.
When I rounded the corner at Hester Street, I came across Chicken V (see review on TripAdvisor) at 124C Hester Street, a small Taiwanese fried chicken place that I found out has a branch in Brooklyn. I decided to order something different and got the Chicken Omelet, which was a chicken wing stuffed with fried rice, the popcorn chicken, which was made with thigh meat. I ordinarily hate this but they did a great job with the seasoning and OFC French Fries. Everything had a salty, garlicky taste to it and the popcorn chicken I could taste a hint of ginger and garlic in it. If you like salty food this is the place for you.
Chinese New Year Parade
I walked around the Bowery and crossed back over into the heart of Chinatown as it started to rain. It had been threatening all day and it started to pour after 4:00pm. The last of the Lion Dancers were performing outside a business on Mott Street and all the restaurants at that point were still busy with people wanting to get out of the rain. The streets were quiet but were loaded with the remains of firecracker streamers and confetti.
My last stop in Chinatown before I headed uptown was Sun Sai Gai See review on TripAdvisor & DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) at 220 Canal Street, which has been my go-to place for roast pork buns ($1.00). I love this place. It is a little on the dumpy side but it is one of the best hole-in-the-wall places in Chinatown and I have always enjoyed it.
Sun Sai Gai in Chinatown
As it poured rain, I saw the last of the people begin to leave Chinatown. To celebrate the beginning of the New Year was a lot of fun. There was a lot of energy in Chinatown. People of all ages and races were enjoying the festivities and families really were enjoying their time together.
Isn’t it what the New Year is all about?
Gong Hei Fat Choi!
124C Hester Street
New York, NY 10002
Sun Sai Gai
220 Canal Street
New York, NY 10013
My review on TripAdvisor:
My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com: