Crowds return to Chinatown in celebration of Lunar New Year


Quillan Anderson

Lion dancers lift costumes during the Lunar New Year celebration in Chinatown Jan. 29. The celebration featured city and community speakers and a parade through the city.

Aiden Stein, news correspondent

Chinatown erupted in a cloud of smoke and confetti Jan. 29, as thousands packed the streets to celebrate the 2023 Lunar New Year, which began on Jan. 22. 

The sound of drums, gongs and cymbals followed troupes of lion dancers and accompanying performers going door-to-door blessing the businesses and restaurants of the neighborhood. 

“It’s always fun, it’s exciting,” said Richard Le, a Cambridge resident and member of the Wong Keung Lion Dance group. “It’s a tradition and an art that needs us to do this every year to ensure that it doesn’t die.” 

Boston’s Chinatown has been a staple of the city since the 1880s. The historic district was brought to life as patrons from all around the city came together to experience Asian culture, and to welcome the Year of the Rabbit. 

“I haven’t been to Chinatown yet, so for me, this is an opportunity to see more of the restaurants in the community, and what it’s like here,” said Jade O’Connor, a Brighton resident. “I’m half Taiwanese, so it’s really nice to see my own culture represented in the city that I live in.”

So Lim Ting, the owner of Friendship BBQ, said that events like these are important to bolster the community and celebrate diverse cultures, especially through dance. 

“I wish that more people will come back and support the community and support the different sectors of lion dance because there are so many different groups,” Ting said. Ting and his family are opening a new restaurant, Jiang Nan, in mid-March near Boston Common. 

Many of the business owners leave offerings for the lions, usually cabbages and oranges, which represent wealth and good fortune. According to Chinese tradition, the oranges are tossed into the air by the lion dancers, and any spectator that catches one is said to receive especially good luck for the year, while the cabbages are smashed on the ground, symbolizing spreading good fortune to everyone. Firecrackers and fireworks are ignited to scare away evil spirits for the new year.  

“I came here when I was a kid around when I was 11 years old, and so now that I’m a mom, I want to bring my son here and celebrate,” said MetroWest resident Jennifer Wong. “It’s just really great to be here with everybody, of all different backgrounds and ages, and seeing families, especially with little kids, it just makes me really happy to have a reason to celebrate, especially during this hard time for Asian Americans — it’s just nice to see people come together.”

At the start of the festival, performing groups gathered one at a time in front of a podium occupied by Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and her children, the commissioner, the head of Chinatown main streets and other command staff. 

Many visitors, including politicians, said they wished the crowds continued throughout the year in Chinatown. 

“The last few years with COVID have been hard, but it’s a big crowd today, and it’s the Year of the Rabbit, which hopefully will bring health, wealth and happiness to the community,” Massachusetts State Rep. Donald Wong of the 9th Essex district said in a speech. “But I would like to see a crowd like this, not just on Chinese New Year, but throughout the year. These people that come here and visit the shops are great and it helps the community.”