World / Reporter's Journal

Lunar New Year’s popularity in the US going to the moon

By William Hennelly in New York (China Daily USA) Updated: 2016-02-18 06:04

Lunar New Year’s popularity in the US going to the moon

The Empire State Building illuminated in the colors of the Chinese flag for Lunar New Year. [Photo/XINHUA]

When it comes to the Chinese New Year, relations between China and the US couldn’t be better.

Each year, Lunar New Year moves further into the American mainstream’s consciousness.

White House ceremony? Check (the second one took place on Tuesday).

Empire State Building illuminated in red and yellow? Check (since 2000, actually).

And this year, the Lunar New Year took Capitol Hill.

The First Annual Congressional Lunar New Year Celebration and Reception was sponsored by Asian-American and Pacific Islander organizations along with members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus at the US Capitol Building in Washington on Feb 10.

“I think it is important to recognize that we have it celebrated in one of these Congress buildings, because it is a powerful statement that the US respects and honors the Lunar New Year,” said Ted Lieu, a US congressman from California.

Also, for the first time in New York City, public school children had the day off for Lunar New Year on Feb 8.Lunar New Year’s popularity in the US going to the moon

New York state Senator Daniel Squadron said that one in six pupils in his district, which includes Manhattan’s Chinatown, is of Asian descent. In previous years, the absentee rate for students on the Lunar New Year reached 80 percent.

A new US Postal Service stamp commemorating the Year of the Monkey debuted on Feb 5.

The stamp was designed by Kam Mak, 54, an illustrator born in Hong Kong who grew up in New York. It features two red-orange peonies — symbols of wealth and honor in Chinese culture, according to Xinhua, and are used to decorate the traditional drums played during lion dances. The stamp also features a paper-cut design of a monkey by late artist Clarence Lee, and a Chinese character for monkey in calligraphy, by Lau Bun.

“As the most important holiday of the year for many Asian communities around the world, Lunar New Year is celebrated with distinct traditions including giving flowers, potted plants and bouquets as gifts,” the USPS website says. “The red peony featured on this year’s stamp symbolizes richness and honor, making it a favorite Lunar New Year gift and decoration. … Individuals born during the Year of the Monkey are said to be clever, wise, and honest. With their keen intellect and sociability, they can easily adapt to new situations.”

The USPS issued the stamp at a ceremony on the campus of St. John’s University in Queens, New York.

Lunar New Year has its share of commercial pitches, too. In recent weeks, Tsingtao, China’s most recognizable beer brand (at least in the US), ran a brilliantly lit display on one of Times Square’s towering video marquees. An explosion of colors greeted those walking down West 43rd Street toward the square.

Macy’s stores in New York and California marked the event with special promotions. Disneyland and Universal Studios in California also celebrated the Spring Festival.

In San Francisco, the city with the largest per capita Chinese-American population, city police officers have had a lion dance troupe for 28 years. The city’s Chinese New Year Festival & Parade, billed as the largest in the world, goes back to the 1860s. The 2016 parade, sponsored by Southwest Airlines, will take place on Feb 20.

“To me, the Chinese New Year is almost like Christmas, Thanksgiving and Mardi Gras all rolled into one,” Parade Director Harlan Wong told CCTV America. “We pass out lucky money, red envelopes to anybody who is unmarried. And then, like Thanksgiving, we have huge family gatherings. And like Mardi Gras, we celebrate with the biggest Chinese New Year parade in the US.”

Perhaps someday the growing camaraderie between China and the US over Lunar New Year could spill into the political arena.

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