Chinese Lunar New Year events 2012

Enter the dragon: Chinese New Year welcomes the luckiest sign of the zodiac.

Wolfgang Lian


A new lunar year begins on Monday 23, and, according to Chinese astrology, it will be a particularly auspicious one: the Year of the Dragon. "Of the 12 signs, the dragon is the only animal that's legendary," explains Ryan Wong, assistant curator at the Museum of Chinese in America. "It's a pervasive icon in Chinese culture. Unlike the Western dragon, usually associated with evil and aggression, the Chinese one is benevolent, powerful and associated with Heaven."

RECOMMENDED: Find more in the Chinese New Year guide

Because of the creature's otherworldliness, it's considered the most favorable sign in the zodiac, and those born under the sign are said to share the traits of the creature itself: strength, passion, ambition and egotism. Emperors as well as Bruce Lee have identified with the mythical being. The Chinese populace often refers to itself as "descendants of the dragon."

The sign's desirability is more than just the stuff of legend. "There have actually been spikes in birthrates in dragon years," says Wong. Countries throughout Asia that follow the lunar calendar experienced baby booms the last three times the flying serpent came around on the cycle: 1976, 1988 ("an especially big year because the number eight is considered lucky," says Wong) and 2000. Shanghai hospitals are already reporting that 2012 will have the highest birthrates in 11 years.

Meanwhile in New York, dragons will be particularly abundant at this year's celebrations. More than twice the normal number will march in the 13th Annual Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade, as will 230 students from a Beijing performing-arts school, who will wear dragon symbols. The beast will also be front and center at the Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival, as some of the 600,000 rounds of explosives have been customized in the shape of the legendary animal.

Shoot for the moon at these Lunar New Year Events

Lunar New Year at the Museum of Chinese in America
MoCA provides a starting point for information about the celebration. Joanna C. Lee and Ken Smith, coauthors of Pocket Chinese Almanac, will give their predictions for the Year of the Dragon at "Decoding the Chinese Almanac" (Sat 21 2:30--3:30pm; $12--$18), or you can learn how households prepare for the New Year with a walking tour through Chinatown (Sat 21, Sun 22, Jan 28; 11am, 1pm. $8--20). 215 Centre St between Canal and Grand Sts (212-619-4785, mocanyc.org)

China in New York: A WQXR Festival
The radio station highlights China's burgeoning classical-music landscape over the airwaves, on the website and at live concerts. Catch performances, interviews and videos featuring pianist Lang Lang (who will be giving a special New Year's--themed concert with the New York Philharmonic on Tue 24), the Shanghai String Quartet, composer Huang Ruo and Mongolian children's chorus Quintessenso Choir. Locations, times and prices vary; visit wqxr.org/china for details. Sun 22--Jan 28.

Lunar New Year Celebration
The New York Chinese Cultural Center hosts this multilevel bash at the Winter Garden a week into the holiday. Performances on the main stage include Shaolin-inspired kung fu, folk dances and traditional music. Earlier in the day, artisans on the balcony will hold workshops in Chinese crafts such as paper-cutting, calligraphy and making dough figurines. Winter Garden at the World Financial Center, 220 Vesey St at West St (212-945-0505, artsworldfinancialcenter.com). Jan 28 1--4pm; free.

Seventh Annual Pre-Lunar New Year Gala and Flower Market
Take advantage of the Queens Botanical Garden's free winter admission and proximity to Flushing's vibrant Chinese community to check out this fair, which features kung fu and cooking demonstrations, live music and a feng shui discussion. 43-50 Main St at Dahlia Ave, Flushing, Queens (718-886-3800, queensbotanical.org). Sat 21, Sun 22 10am--5pm; free.

GET CRACKING! New Year Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival, Sara D. Roosevelt Park, Chrystie St at Grand St (betterchinatown.com). Mon 23 11am--3pm; free. * 13th Annual Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade, begins at Canal and Mott Sts (betterchinatown.com). Jan 29 11:30am--4pm; free.

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