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Year of the Rabbit Kicks Off in Chinatown

By DNAinfo Staff on February 3, 2011 4:44pm  | Updated on February 4, 2011 6:49am

Elizabeth Ladzinski

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

CHINATOWN — The staccato pop of thousands of firecrackers pierced the air on Thursday as thousands celebrated Chinese New Year, welcoming in the Year of the Rabbit.

A series of paraders took the streets to celebrate, stopping at shops throughout the neighborhood to perform the traditional Lion Dance, which is said to ward of evil spirits and bring occupants good fortune in the coming year

At Sara D. Roosevelt Park, volunteers from the Better Chinatown Society festooned the park with flags and red lanterns, as others worked quickly to assemble strings of firecrackers.

"It's exciting. I think it's more exciting than New Year's in general," said Lower East Side resident Michael Lung, 31, as he watched the festivities.

While some looked forward to the firecrackers, others were more excited about receiving New Year's gifts.

"I like the Lion Dance, and red envelopes," said Andy Li, 11.

In Eastern tradition, red envelopes filled with cash are given to friends and family during the Lunar New Year.

Performers dressed as lions, in traditional red and gold, marched through Sara D. Roosevelt Park while dancers twirled to the sound of drums and chimes.

A break in the nasty weather made for an enjoyable day for all.

"A lot of people thought it was going to snow," said Raymond Cheung, executive director of entertainment for Better Chinatown Society. "But we made it."

"I think God is taking care of us today," he added. 

One of the most popular parts of the celebration is the Lunar New Year Parade, which will wind through Little Italy and Chinatown on Sunday, Feb. 6.

Lunar New Year celebrations will continue for 15 days, ending with the Lantern Festival on Feb. 17, also known as the Chinese "Valentine's Day."