By Matthew Allen, news correspondent
Hundreds gathered in Chinatown on Sunday to participate in one of the most revered Chinese holiday extravaganzas on their lunar calendar, the Chinese New Year.
The Year of the Rooster parade started around 11 a.m. on Harrison Avenue, moving through Essex and Kneeland streets for four hours despite the early morning snow. The parade featured traditional lion dances, dragon dances, firecrackers, drums and food.
The area was laden with paper lanterns, Year of the Rooster Chinese character hangings and Chinese New Year party picks. Much of the decor was red – the color that symbolizes good luck in Chinese culture.
Chinatown resident Jiayi Caccavale said the overarching purpose of these rituals are to mark the beginning of warm weather – even though that doesn’t necessarily apply to Boston – and to appease spiritual entities.
“For 15 days, we celebrate this way to ward off the evil spirits,” Caccavale said. “Hopefully, it will bring good fortune for all in the upcoming year.”
This ceremony is also heavily entwined with China’s two most prominent religions, Taoism and Buddhism.
During the opening festivities, the Boston Chinese Freemasons Athletic Club performed a traditional lion dance. The ritual involved two people in a lion costume made in southern China’s Guangdong province and another person wearing a Buddha clown costume. Within each lion costume, one person operated the head movements and the other performed the dance steps.
The lavishly designed costumes at the celebration are usually hand-made in Taiwan or China, and incorporate four colors: Yellow, red, green and black. The colors, just like the individual rituals performed at this event, all represent a different type of emotional attribute. The red and black color patterns represent courage, the yellow patterns represent wisdom and green and black patterns represent ferocity.
The final component of the lion dance involved all the participants displaying a firecracker finale.
Sunday’s ceremony was more significant than past celebrations because of the size of the Chinese community in Boston. USA Today rated Boston’s Chinatown the seventh best Chinatown in the nation.
However, even with the massive influx of Chinese residents, Boston’s Chinese New Year ceremony attracted people of a wide variety of ethnicities, Boston residents and local college students who are not of Chinese descent.
Jason Kang, 23 year-old resident of Avon, Massachusetts, said he was pleased with the diversity of those in attendance.
“Unlike other Chinese holidays like the Qingming Festival or our Dragon Boat Festival, the Chinese New Year ceremony seems to always attract so many people,” Kang said.
Kang also said he was elated to see how welcoming Boston has been to the Chinese community.
“I take pleasure in the fact that so many people that aren’t even Chinese want to share in our most significant custom,” he said. “It’s not hard to see why the Chinese community is so large in Boston given that so many of our ethnic customs are warmly embraced here.”
This event is taken very seriously by the Chinese community, Chinatown resident Juan Paella said.
“This is the single biggest event on our lunar calendar,” Paella said. “It means everything to us.”
Photo by Dylan Shen