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How to Celebrate the Year of the Horse in Chinatown

By Serena Solomon | January 24, 2014 9:12am
 Speciality shopping and restaurant deals are some of the ways to enjoy the Chinese Lunar New Year.
Chinese Lunar New Year
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CHINATOWN — As the Year of the Snake slithers away, Chinatown is getting ready to welcome in the Year of the Horse.

The Lunar New Year on Jan. 31 is surrounded by weeks of celebrations, but there's more happening than just the dancing lions and a firecracker ceremony. Pop-up stores are offering deals on traditional gifts including red money envelopes and clementine trees — a symbol of prosperity — while Chinatown's restaurants are serving special menus for New Year's revelers.

"To make it through the threshold of the year is a big celebration," said Wellington Chen, the executive director of the Chinatown Business Improvement District and the Chinatown Partnership.

"It's very comparable to pre-Christmas — the food shopping is huge," he added. "The travel is huge."

People born in the Year of the Horse are said to be energetic, clever and talkative, though they can sometimes be stubborn. No matter your sign, here's how to celebrate the Lunar New Year in Chinatown:


Red Envelopes and Other Good Luck Charms

A handful of stores spring up in Chinatown this time each year with a sea of red and gold trinkets. At a new shop without a name at 284 Grand St., a pack of six red envelopes for gifting money, a Lunar New Year tradition, costs $1.

"You typically give in even denominations — $2, $10, $20," Chen said. "The closer you are to the person, the more you give."

But don't give $4 because "it means death," Chen said.

The stores — a handful can be found on Mott Street — also sell diamond-shaped items and scrolls that are normally hung from doors.

"Placing things at the door keeps the bad things out and welcomes in the fortune," Chen said.

Clementine Trees

To increase your chance of a prosperous Year of the Horse, grab a clementine tree from Joy's Flowers at 40 Hester St.

"The apartment will smell like jasmine. It’s very strong,” owner Joy Hilany said.

The tree with lush green foliage will blossom and produce the bright orange fruit.

Eating Out

Red Egg, 202 Center St.

Red Egg will be serving a special banquet menu as well as showcasing lion dancers during dinner on New Year’s Eve, Jan. 30, and New Year's night, Jan. 31.

"If we go by previous years, I recommend making a reservation," said David Wan, who opened Red Egg six years ago. "It gets very busy."

The banquet menu costs $498 for 10 people, or you can order a prix fixe menu at $48 per person, with items such as Peking duck sliders and crispy garlic chicken.

Amazing 66, 66 Mott St.

Dried oysters with black seaweed and squash with a dried scallop center are some of the Lunar New Year specials at Amazing 66.

The menu is offered for a month from mid-January to mid-February, according to manager Arthur Lau.

Meals can be purchased a la carte, and a $398 banquets is available for 10 to 12 people.


Another way to celebrate the Lunar New Year is by visiting one of dozens of dumpling spots in Chinatown.

"They are in the shape of gold coins," Chen said, explaining why dumplings are traditionally linked with prosperity in the New Year.

Popular dumpling locations include Prosperity Dumpling, 46 Eldridge St., and Lam Zhou, 144 East Broadway.


Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival

Jan. 31 at 11 a.m., Sara D. Roosevelt Park at Grand and Forsyth streets

The Better Chinatown organization will set off about half a million firecrackers during this popular annual event in Sara D. Roosevelt Park.

"The reason you use firecrackers and dancing lions is to scare away the evil spirits," Chen said.

The event is free, but attendees can shop at craft stands and food stalls for some traditional Chinese treats.

Gallop into the New Year: Family Festival

Feb. 1 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Museum of Chinese in America, 215 Centre St.

The Museum of Chinese in America will be hosting a series of family-friendly performances and arts workshops in this New Year's festival. Children and adults will get to watch a dancing lion performance, as well as the Blossoming Sunflower and Swirling Red Silk dances, and then they will learn how to do some of the dances themselves. 

The day also includes a drum workshop, story time and Chinese calligraphy demonstrations.

The museum has other programs surrounding the holiday, such as a walking tours describing how Chinatown prepares for the Lunar New Year.

Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade and Festival

Feb. 2 at 1 p.m., Little Italy and Chinatown

The 15th annual Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade will wind through the streets of Little Italy and Chinatown to Sara D. Roosevelt Park at Canal and Forsyth streets. Dancing dragons and lions, floats and drummers will be part of the parade that ends with craft and food stalls in the park.