New York Chinese Cultural Center celebrates New Year and more

On Mott Street on the day of the Lunar New Year, the lion looks on to luck and fortune.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

Strung across Mott Street, colored paper lanterns appeared last month, lighting the night of this dark pandemic winter. But, it’s the brilliant hues of oranges and tangerines at produce stands, the lucky red envelopes, and crimson lanterns and scarlet decorations in gift shops that shout Chinese New Years. From the eve of the holiday to the Lantern Festival, the lunar or spring holiday is celebrated for 16 days. 

In the Chinese zodiac, each year is given an animal sign and this is the Year of the Ox. The ox is seen as strong and diligent, reliable and persistent in whatever it does and can also be seen as stubborn.

“In this Year of the Ox, I hope we celebrate the strength and resilience of people across the world in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Ying Yen of the New York Chinese Cultural Center. “I hope we can work together to get through this difficult time.”

Although there was no formal parade observing Chinese New Years this year, lion dancers could not help themselves in making an appearance on Mott Street to the delight of those who happend on the street that day.Photo by Tequila Minsky
Crimson and scarlet —the colors of luck for New Years.Photo by Tequila Minsky
Colored lanterns strung across Mott Street, help brighten dark pandemic winter days and nights.Photo by Tequila Minsky

Executive Director of the Center for almost five years, Yen adds, “Lunar New Year is the most important holiday in the Chinese culture. So, despite the pandemic, I think people are finding ways to celebrate this holiday safely.”

Many cultural institutions offered virtual performances and workshops to mark and celebrate the holiday. “Family and friends will use virtual meetings to connect.” It’s good to see life returning to Chinatown as shopping is boasted by the holiday. 

New York Chinese Cultural Center had its own Lunar New Year Celebration online with a lineup of eight dance, music and kung fu performances followed by three workshops. Senator Chuck Schumer, Council Member Margaret Chin and Ambassador Huang Ping of the Chinese Consulate joined the Center in the Lunar New Year show to celebrate this holiday and show support for the Chinese-American community. “This is so important, especially during this time of growing anti-Chinese sentiment and violence.” 

The 47-year-old Center started as a way for Chinese New Yorkers to share in their culture and build community. Its programming is all outreach, performances, classes, working in the schools, with major museums and other cultural partners. The administrative office with a lean and passionately working staff is on Henry Street —Lower East Side/Chinatown. 

“We pivoted to online classes, performances and workshops within two weeks of the NYS Pause order last year,” says Yen, “and have been running online programs ever since. We now offer both online and in-person programs that allow us to reach a wider audience across the U.S.”

The Center’s Lunar New Year celebrations continue with Chinese dance and music performances at Brookfield Place from February 19th through March 14th. RSVP required for limited audience numbers in studio spaces. https://bfplny.com/studiobfpl

This pandemic year and past years’ Center programs can be seen at www.youtube.com/user/ChineseCulturalCtr, its youtube channel.  By the end of the month, their Lunar New Years’ show can be viewed.

There is so much value added with virtual programming, particularly reaching a much wider audience.   When things “normalize” the Center looks forward to parallel programming—live-streaming along with in-person and also virtual workshops.  “We will continue to have performers who tour the country,” says Yen. 

The Center’s website www.nychineseculturalcenter.org  informs more about its on-going programming. 

The lion dances during this performance for the Year of the Ox. Broadcast on computer by NY Chinese Cultural Center.Photo by Tequila Minsky
Chinese dance, both lion and dancer, wearing masks, messaging important health practice. Broadcast on computer by NY Chinese Cultural Center.Photo by Tequila Minsky
By Zoom, beautiful Chinese dance shared with the public. Broadcast on computer by NY Chinese Cultural Center.Photo by Tequila Minsky
Dance performances share Chinese culture with others— Chinese and those who are learning about Chinese traditions. Broadcast by NY Chinese Cultural Center.Photo by Tequila Minsky

More from around NYC