This Lunar New Year is more than just the Year of the Sheep; it’s Flushing’s year to show off the economic and cultural strength of a burgeoning Asian-American community.
“This is an auspicious year for us,” said John Choe, who helped create the new Flushing Chamber of Commerce. “It’s very symbolic and politically significant. We’re stepping toward mainstream recognition.”
This Lunar New Year is on Feb. 19. Celebrations in Flushing have always attracted many people but Choe and organizers are expecting this year’s celebrations to be the biggest because of an increase in Flushing’s population and what Choe sees as America’s acceptance of Asian traditions.
“Our message is that this is an American holiday,” Choe said. “We create jobs. We are spurring the economy. We deserve the recognition other ethnic groups get.”
Flushing has become a cultural hub, through the combined effect of new immigrants settling in the area, the hyper activity of the real estate market and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s mandate to develop Flushing’s waterfront along the creek. The city also passed a law recently recognizing Lunar New Year as an official holiday that is being observed by public schools.
“Flushing is at the forefront of helping to make a change,” Choe said and compared it to the Harlem Renaissance. “I see the elements of a Flushing Renaissance. People come from around the world helping to contribute to a new sense of what it means to be American.”
And all that the people in the area have to contribute to America will be on display all weekend as exhibitions and workshops will be held to celebrate the holiday. There will be a parade on Feb. 21 and Flushing Town Hall will also be hosting Chinese and Korean performances. The performances include a group of dancers portraying earth, wind and fire elements; two master calligraphers holding workshops open to the public; and the East River Ensemble, a group of dancers and musicians.
The significance of the holiday was also recognized by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which for the first time suspended weekend service disruptions along the 7 train during the week before and week of Lunar New Year. The move was seen as a major victory among Asian-Americans in Flushing, as more visitors can travel there to shop and celebrate the holiday because subways will be running, unlike last year.
The emphasis for this year is also on a joint celebration between the Korean and Chinese communities in Flushing. In previous Lunar New Year celebrations, the two communities didn’t work together because of historical tensions that stretch back to problems between the Korean and Chinese nations.
“We’re bringing in the new year by being together,” said Jamison Moon, a member of the Korean American Association. “And to be able to do this between two historically strained groups is a great victory.”