By Tien-Shun Lee
With a row of firecrackers crackling and sending smoke into the air, Chinese watching the annual Lunar New Year parade in Flushing Saturday said this year’s celebration was particularly “yeet nao,” or filled with warmth and liveliness.
According to the Chinese horoscope, the Year of the Monkey begins Jan. 22 and should bring parties, playful energy and good times.
“The monkey’s supposed to be a lot of fun. This is a chance for us to play,” said Jack Lum, 70, bundled up under blue skies, holding a corner of a banner for the Taiwanese-American Senior Center. “I feel happy. We got nice weather.”
After two days of temperatures in the single digits, the city warmed up Saturday to temperatures in the low 30s, and thousands of spectators lined the streets of Flushing to watch the festivities.
About 3,000 people danced, marched and performed in the parade that began at 11:20 a.m. on Union Street by 37th Avenue with the lighting of a block-long row of firecrackers.
Spectators cheered as the fireworks crackled for about five minutes and left the street covered with festive shreds of red paper.
“It’s very yeet nao here,” said Jim Shi, 30, of Flushing, who watched with his girlfriend as the firecrackers went off. “This year should be better because the economy is better.”
Yung Yiu, a Flushing resident who came to Queens five years ago from Hong Kong, said the atmosphere during Flushing’s Lunar New Year is lacking in comparison with Hong Kong, but her children still enjoy the cultural celebrations, including lion-dancing and lycee, or “lucky money,” given in red envelopes by adult relatives and close friends.
In Hong Kong, Chinese New Year’s celebrations last for one week and include spectacular, hourlong fireworks shows and gala banquets all over the city, Yiu said.
According to the Chinese zodiac, people born in the Year of the Monkey are party-lovers, curious, quick-witted, mischievous, funny, energetic and ready for love. This year’s monkey spirit should bring a busy social life and a keen desire to figure things out. The energy should be more upbeat than last year, the Year of the Sheep, which was characterized by people who are happiest in a crowd, affectionate, selfless and trusting.
The Flushing post office issued a commemorative monkey stamp on Friday, the 12th and last out of the U.S. Postal Service’s stamp series commemorating each animal in the 12-year Chinese zodiac.
“I hope there’s not so much bad news and a better economy than last year,” said Yiu, when asked about the prospects for the Year of the Monkey.
Highlights of Saturday’s parade included lion dances by the Falun Dafa group and Yee’s Hung Lin Kung Fu Academy, kung-fu performances and Korean dancers dressed in green, yellow and red pom-pom hats who beat on hourglass-shaped drums accompanied by music from a traditional horn that sounds like a bag pipe.
The parade ended by the Flushing Mall on Main Street with the Francis Lewis High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps marching band.
Sgt. Richard Gogarty, the leader of the JROTC program at Francis Lewis in Fresh Meadows, said this is the first year his students marched in the Lunar New Year parade. The band, which is about 60 percent Asian, was invited to participate by Fred Fu, the president of the Flushing Chinese Business Association.
“I’m going to celebrate the new year by spending time with my family and eating traditional Korean food like kimchi and jap chai (a glass noodle dish),” said Jane Kim of Fresh Meadows, the Cadet Battalion Commander of the JROTC group who is planning on attending the West Point military academy this fall.
While Chinese often celebrate the Lunar New Year by wearing prosperous colors such as red and gold and eating hair-like fungus noodles and rice vermicelli, long foods which are supposed to bring long life, many Koreans bring in the new year with rice cakes and egg and dress in loose-fitting traditional Korean clothing.
“For us, we generally go to the older generation, put our hands together and wish them to have a good, healthy new year,” said Xiao Wan, a native of Jiang Xi, China. “We say ‘xin nian kuai le’ (happy new year), or the Hong Kong people say ‘gong hay fat tsoy’ (congratulations for prosperity).”
Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at email@example.com, or call 718-229-0300, ext. 155.