Ring in the Lunar New Year

By Merle Exit

Queens is gearing up for 2016’s second New Year’s celebration as the Lunar New Year kicks off 15 days of festivities Feb. 8

An important holiday across Southeast and Eastern Asia, Lunar New Year is celebrated by the Chinese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Koreans and Malaysians.

“I’d like to wish everyone a happy Year of the Monkey,” Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) said. “This is our first Lunar New Year following the creation of the official school holiday so we expect this year’s celebration to be bigger than ever.”

As the calendar turns a page, celebrants offer “gong hei fat choi” — or wishes of good luck — to friends and family. It is also customary to hand out red envelopes of cash. Red is used because it represents luck.

The highlight of each celebration is the Lunar New Year Parade in downtown Flushing.

Incorporating dozens of decorated floats, giant dragon figures on poles manipulated by dancers, marching bands and politicians, this year’s parade is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 13, starting at 11 a.m. at Union Street and 37th Avenue.

The holiday is also a time for family reunions with special cakes made of rice flour and brown sugar that are prepared to share for the celebration. You can find those sweets at Tai Pan Bakery at 37-25 Main St.

Traditional dumplings are part of the holiday meals as well. A few of the restaurants are now featuring the soup dumplings that Joe’s Shanghai made famous.

Once again Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Blvd., will serve as the unofficial Lunar New Year headquarters for the borough with performances, exhibitions and the return of a traditional holiday bazaar.

On Feb. 12, Han Chung Eun and his band Starlight Forest bring a fusion of Korean, Nordic, Celtic and American roots to the performance venue.

After the success of last year’s holiday bazaar, Flushing Town Hall brings the centuries-old tradition of the Lunar New Year temple fairs back for a second go-round Feb. 20.

A family-friendly event, the bazaar includes performances, martial arts demonstrations, crafts and food.

Because of last year’s sold-out event, there will be two sessions of the bazaar this year, one at 11 a.m. and the second at 2 p.m.

Other Flushing Town Hall events include a calligraphy workshop Feb. 21, a performance by Chinese jazz vocalist Annie Chen Feb. 26 and a monkey mask craft and dance workshop Feb. 28.

Over at the Kupferberg Center for the Arts at Queens College, the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Co. featuring acrobatic dancers with colorful costumes and musicians playing ancient melodies present a holiday concert Feb. 24 and Feb. 25.

“The Lunar New Year is a time for families to come together, often from across the world, to celebrate and spend time with one another,” Koo said. “Here in Flushing, we embrace our good fortunes and look forward to the coming year with a renewed energy and optimism. “

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