MIDTOWN — Santa Claus and dancing Chinese dragons will form an unusual partnership this Saturday for the Fifth Annual East Meets West Christmas Parade through Chinatown and Little Italy.
The parade will wind its way through the closely knit, but culturally diverse neighborhoods showcasing both Asian and Italian traditions. The colorful procession, which starts on Mulberry and Canal streets at 2 p.m., will also feature floats, marching bands, and free candy and fortune cookies in what organizers claim is the city’s second biggest behind the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“Five years ago we decided to ask our friends in Chinatown to make the parade bigger and better,” said Ralph Tramontana, who is the 42-year-old president of the Little Italy Merchants Association, which collaborated with the Chinatown Partnership on the event.
Little Italy has been taking its Christmas celebrations to the streets for 30 years, but has recently invited its Chinatown neighbors to become involved.
The Chinatown and Little Italy communities have existed side by side in Lower Manhattan for more than 100 years, and have partnered before to protect their unique cultures. Last year, the two neighborhoods were recognized jointly on the National Register of Historic Places and both recently partnered to lure tourists from the World Trade Center site to visit the area.
Tramontana said the parade demonstrates the external differences but internal similarities between Chinatown and Little Italy.
“Italians and Asians are very similar in their traditions and family values,” he said.
“You are going to see marching bands, old cars, Italian singers, Asian singers,” added Tramontana, who volunteers with LIMA and owns Cafe Sambuca at 105 Mulberry St. “And of course you are going to see Santa.”
The Red Mike Festival band, which has played at every Little Italy festival since it was formed in 1926, will be playing tunes while dressed in their signature red, green and white hats.
Valarie D’Elia, who is Italian by heritage and is the correspondent behind the “Travel with Val” segment on NY1, will be the parade's grand marshal. The parade route winds north on Mulberry Street to Prince Street, then turns south down Mott Street to Worth Street, before ending at Chatham (Kimlau) Square off St. James Place.