By Sadef Ali Kully
Fiery, vermillion and saffron-colored dragons, the beating thunder of the drums, and the vibrant lions dancing down Main Street almost made the Flushing Lunar New Year parade viewers forget the cold temperature Saturday morning.
The stars of the parade were the dragons and bright costumes from the World Journal, a Chinese daily newspaper based in Flushing, and the costumed dancing maidens.
“I have been coming to this parade for almost 30 years and I love it,” said Barbara Krieger, from Port Washington. “This year, they had everything online so I was able to find out when and what time the parade was going to happen.”
The Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is being celebrated by over one billion Asians across the world.
“I grew up in San Francisco and have so many childhood memories of the Lunar Year parade there,” said Shana Maron-Ames, an actress from Manhattan, who would miss the Manhattan Lunar New Year parade due to work.
The year is the Year of the Yang, translated as horned or a hoofed animal, which could be the year of the sheep, the ram, or the goat, depending on the Asian origin. It represents prosperity, peace and good fortune for the coming year.
“It doesn’t really matter, one zodiac symbol is not more or less important than the other. But to be more specific, the goat makes more sense as the symbol because it is more common in China,” said Professor Yunzhong Shu, associate professor in the Chinese Department of Asian Studies at Queens College.
The red, green, yellow and white lions in the parade cast off potential evil spirits or bad luck in the coming year.
“It is to bring good luck. In many events, people feed lettuce to the lion and then we spit the lettuce back out for good luck. The lettuce represents fortune and the lion represents the cleansing,” said Sunny Tam, a lion dancer from the Staten Island Lions, a group that performs the art of lion dancing and martial arts across the city. “This is my first time performing in Queens. We perform all over. Tomorrow we will be in Chinatown.”
More than 75,000 new immigrants have settled in Queens over the past four years. Chinese immigrants, which make up almost 13 percent of the total, are the largest group of newcomers, followed by Guyanese, Ecuadorian and Mexican immigrants, according to tDepartment of City Planning data.
“This is an American holiday, too,. The city comes out for St. Patrick’s Day, for Columbus Day, and New York should be here for Lunar New Year. We are going to shape this city and these streets,” said John Choe, the executive director for the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce.
Towards the end of the parade, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, officially declared the day as the Lunar New Year day with state Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing), U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing).
Hundred of thousands of people were expected for the parade, despite the freezing temperatures, which ended with a fireworks display outside of the Queens Crossing Mall, where community leaders and lawmakers were in attendance.
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull