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Chinatown hops into the Year of the Rabbit at 25th Annual Lunar New Year firecracker festival

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A large crowd gathered in and around Sara D. Roosevelt Park on Sunday for the 25th Annual Lunar New Year Firecracker Ceremony & Cultural Festival.
Photo by Dean Moses

Manhattan’s Chinatown welcomed the Lunar New Year in spectacular fashion, beginning with Midnight Madness on Canal Street overnight on Saturday, and continuing on with celebrations inside Sara D. Roosevelt Park on Sunday.

A jubilant crowd gathered at 211 Canal St. beginning at 11 p.m. Saturday. There, crowds lined the sidewalks to ring in the Year of the Rabbit with a slate of cultural performances.

The celebration, hosted by the New York Chinese Freemasons Athletic, featured extravagant dragon dances accompanied by the thumping beat of drums and bursts of confetti flying in every direction.

Photo by Adrian Childress
Photo by Adrian Childress
Photo by Adrian Childress

Later Sunday, the 25th annual Lunar New Year Firecracker Ceremony & Cultural Festival kicked off inside the park. The celebration — hosted by Better Chinatown USA in collaboration with local elected officials — began at noon with speeches from local bigwigs, such as Mayor Eric Adams, who appeared on stage dressed in traditional Chinese garb.

Hizzoner looked out upon hundreds of attendees who’d packed themselves into and around the park in hopes of getting a glimpse of the commemoration.

“This is an important community,” Mayor Adams said, lauding years of strong participation in Lunar New Year celebrations from local residents and officials alike. “We’re going to continue to move forward together with all of the electeds who represent this community; there has been a strong voice for this community and there’s great hope and prosperity for Chinatown. So, I thank you for allowing us to come out today and celebrate the Year of the Rabbit and the peace and prosperity that is associated with it.”

Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses

New Yorkers of all ages waved flags and cried “Happy New Year!” as musicians played songs to mark the occasion. Lion dancers also put on a jaw-dropping show that saw a performer scale a gigantic, 50-foot pole above the park while confetti blasted into the air.

“Happy New Year to Chinatown, Happy Year of the Rabbit, the year that we are gonna go hopping forward to be a stronger Chinatown, a better Chinatown, and I’m so thrilled to partner with all of you in the year ahead,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine.

Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses

To symbolize the Year of the Rabbit, lion dancers also put on a performance in which they fed on lettuce held out by elected officials on fishing rods. Finally, a grand firecracker ceremony concluded the celebration. Crowds watched in awe as smoke bellowed and flames arose from the display — a symbol meant to ward off evil spirits.  

While the occasion was certainly a happy one, attendees also acknowledged the heartbreaking mass shooting that left 10 dead in Monterey Park, California near a Lunar New Year festival the night before.

“We are mindful of the terrible incident in Monterey Park,” New York State Senator Brian Kavanagh told the crowd. “We have to do a lot more work to keep our community safe and keep our nation safe.”

Attending Police Department officials also acknowledged the tragedy.    

“I want to say we are paying attention to what is happening in California and other parts of the United States,” said NYPD Deputy Chief of Community Affairs Maximo Tolentino. “We have plenty of officers here so this can be celebration.”  

Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses

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