By Tuan Nguyen and Ben Fractenberg
CHINATOWN — The annual Chinatown Lunar New Year’s Day Firecracker Ceremony drew thousands of Asian Americans and visitors to Sara Roosevelt Park Monday morning for fireworks and performers dressed as lions, dragons and unicorns.
The dragon was a particularly important creature during the celebrations, as the Year of the Dragon, which just kicked off, is considered particularly auspicious. Many couples even planned their families around the date.
“This year is special because it’s the year of the Dragon,” explained Steven Tin, executive director of the Better Chinatown Society, an organizer of the event. “The dragon in Asian culture is the [strongest] sign. Everybody wants to be born in the year of the dragon.”
Roughly 600,000 rounds of colorful firecrackers were fired off in the ceremony, while people crammed on the sidewalks of Sara Roosevelt Park along Forsyth and Chrystie streets.
The firecrackers were traditionally believed to scare off evil spirits at the start of the year and bring in prosperity. After the fireworks, a dozen lion, dragon and unicorn dance troupes marched down the main streets of Chinatown to help ring in the New Year.
Various events will be held across the city Big Apple to mark the holiday, which is celebrated over several weeks.
Dozens of third and forth graders in the park from P.S 9 in Brooklyn shouted “Gongxi facai, gongxi facai!” (Happiness and prosperity).
Diandra Verwayne, a third grade teacher, from the school said they come annually for the event.
“We teach them a lot about the Chinese New Year and the different things Chinese people do,” said Verwayne. “Just being here is the very exciting part of our learning about the Chinese culture.”