Chinese (Lunar) New Year Festivites

Chinese New Year, by Zhang Min, giclée print, 1997 at Museum of Chinese in America

Saturday, January 28th, marks the beginning of the Chinese Lunar year  4714 , also known as the Year of the Fire Rooster.   The Chinese zodiac moves in a 12-year cycle, with other Rooster years falling in 1945, 1969, 1981, 1993 and 2005; however, the last Fire Rooster year was 1956. 

Lunar New Year, heralding the beginning of the Spring Festival, is celebrated by many countries in East Asia, where it is also known as Chinese New Year, Sŏllal (Korea), Tsagaan Sar (Mongolia), Losar (Tibet), Tet (VietNam) and Imlek (Indonesia).

Families gather together for a reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve, and clean their houses to sweep away bad fortune on New Year’s Day.  Traditionally, children would be given red envelopes stuffed with ‘lucky money’ and positive wishes on New Year’s Day, but now, there’s an app for that!

Year of the Rooster red envelope

Fire Roosters are known for being trustworthy, punctual and responsible (especially at work), not to mention active, amusing, popular, outspoken, loyal and charming. On the other hand… they are also known to enjoy the spotlight – but can be vain and boastful.  Serena Williams, Eric Clapton, Beyonce and Roger Federer were all born in the Year of the Rooster.

The traditional holiday lasts for 15 days, culminating with the Lantern Festival for young lovers. Here in the Big Apple there are a number of celebrations over the coming weeks in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

On the first day of the Lunar New Year, January 28, the Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival, gets things going at 11:00am, at Sara D. Roosevelt Park. (Grand Street at Chrystie St.)  There will be performances, vendors, and giveaways. The main event, the Firecracker Ceremony is scheduled for noon. You might want to bring your ear plugs!

Starting Saturday, January 28th, with the Chinese New Year Temple Bazaar, Flushing Town Hall in Queens will be hosting a variety of events throughout February to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

At the Asia Society, celebrate the Year of the Rooster on Saturday, January 28th with crafts, music, kung-fu demonstration and theatre.  More information here.  Their New York location is at 725 Park Avenue (70th Street), with offices in 11 other cities around the US and the world.

Join The Korea Society on Saturday, January 28th, to celebrate Sŏllal, the Korean New Year,  a day of fun-filled family activities: enjoy storytelling based on Korean folk tales, play a Korean hand-drum, learn brush painting, compete in traditional games, and more! The Korea Society is at 950 Third Avenue, 8th floor.

Sunday, January 29th, join the festivities at Madison Street to Madison Avenue  which include a variety of  cultural performances and a wide-range of fun, kid-friendly activities inside heated tents, including Chinese face painting, calligraphy demonstrations, paper-cutting, and a themed photo booth. Starting at 11:00am, inside the Harman Music Store, 54th Street between Madison and Park Avenues.  Sponsored by the Confucius Institute for Business (CIB) at SUNY.  

Sunday, January 29th, Celebrate Chinese New Year in Sunset Park, NY’s “other” Chinatown in Brooklyn, with a parade and free performances. A fun family outing whatever your ethnicity, Chinese New Year events in Sunset Park are organized by the Brooklyn Chinese-American Association, a community service organization founded in 1987.  Noon to 1 p.m.: Parade starts at Eighth Avenue and 50th Street in Brooklyn.

Saturday, February 4th, Celebrate the Year of the Rooster in the most diverse community in the United States! March with the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce in the Flushing Lunar New Year Parade organized by the “2017 Lunar New Year Festival Committee,” a coalition of community groups led by the Flushing Chinese Business Association (FCBA) and the Korean American Association of Queens (KAAQ).  Meet up with the Flushing Chamber (39-01 Main Street, Suite 511) between 10:00AM and 11:00AM for some hot coffee and donuts … then, head off to the parade which lasts approximately an hour.

Saturday, February 4th, China Institute will host Chinese New Year celebrations, including family workshops and a concert.  You can find more information on these and other programs here.  You’ll find the China Institute at 100 Washington Street; note that there’s a temporary entrance: 40 Rector Street, 2nd Floor.

The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) is hosting several  Lunar New Year events:   you can start on Saturday, February 4th, and learn how to make dumplings with Joanna Lee and Ken Smith, authors of the Pocket Chinese Almanac (you can listen to my podcast with them last year here); Saturday, February 11th, MOCA will have zodiac themed arts & crafts, lively dance performances, festive food sampling, storytelling, and much more for the whole family; and  on Sunday, February 12th, you can join Joanna and Ken at the Golden Unicorn Restaurant, where they’ll teach you how to order dim sum.

Sunday, February 5th, from noon to 4:30 pm, Check out Chinatown’s Annual Lunar New Year Parade for tantalizing visuals, delicious treats and mesmerizing cultural performances. This party features all sorts of vendors, food, and festivities for all ages to welcome the Year of the Rooster. The parade winds its way through the main streets of Manhattan Chinatown on February 5, and parade starts at 1pm. Show up early to grab a prime spot along the route! Suggested viewing locations: East Broadway or by Grand Street / Sara Roosevelt Park.

February 8th, 6:00pm, the Flushing Chamber of Commerce Lunar New Year Celebration   attendees will enjoy family-friendly performances and get to savor Lunar New Year delicacies include a prosperity toss, roasted suckling pig, golden dumplings, longevity noodles, and more.  6:00pm – 8:30pm Flushing Town Hall, 173-35 Northern Boulevard   

Saturday, February 11th,  Ring in the year of the Rooster at Brookfield Place in partnership with the New York Chinese Culture Center. Get ready for energetic dance and music performances, as well as demonstrations of Chinese customs such as a martial arts demo and theatrical players in full traditional makeup-up and regalia. Guests of all ages should show up early: there will be a dynamic, colorful Lion Parade led by lion dances throughout the space before the show begins. Starting 1:30pm

Looking further ahead, from March 9th to the 18th, you can enjoy Asia Week New York, an annual ten-day celebration of Asian art  with exhibitions, auctions and special events presented by leading international Asian art specialists, auction houses, museums and cultural institutions.

Dia: Beacon – Modern Art in the Hudson Valley

In late fall last year I found myself in Beacon, NY for a meeting, so before heading back to the Big Apple, I made sure to stop into the Dia: Beacon.  Nestled in lovely grounds on the banks of the Hudson River, this former Nabisco box-printing factory’s interior was redesigned by Robert Irwin, and houses their collection of modern art – primarily sculpture that is minimalist, abstract and conceptual – from the 1960’s to the present.

Dia: Beacon

While many of the works are large scale, the spaciousness of the galleries, spread over three levels,  allows them to breathe and be shown to their advantage.  Even if you’re not a big fan of this type of art, I think you’ll leave with a greater appreciation for the craft and (some of) the theory that underpin these works. 

Greeting you after the entrance is Walter De Maria’s 360˚ I Ching / 64 Sculptures, 1981 consisting of 576 white-laquered wooden rods on a red carpet, divided into 64 hexagrams, each composed of 3 solid and 3 broken lines, based on permutations of the hexagram found in this ancient Chinese text.   Occupying 10,000 sq. ft., it’s a fitting way to begin your exploration of the galleries.

Walter De Maria, 360˚ I Ching/64 Sculptures, 1981. © The Estate of Walter De Maria. Photo: Bill Jacobson Studio, New York, courtesy of Dia

Walter De Maria, 360˚ I Ching/64 Sculptures, 1981. © The Estate of Walter De Maria. Photo: Bill Jacobson Studio, New York, courtesy of Dia

Also on the ground floor you’ll find a series of “monuments” for V. Tatlin (1966, 1968, 1981), Dan Flavin’s fluorescent light structures which reference the Russian Constructivist’s ambition in uniting art and technology, although Flavin’s use of ordinary fluorescent light bulbs which burn out and need replacing, provide an ironic counterpoint to the notion of “monument.”

“monuments” for V. Tatlin, by Dan Flavin


In the back gallery are Michael Heizer’s North, East, South, West,  four geometric pits (together 125 ft. long and 21ft. deep), whose forms – square, cone, triangular trough – are separations of void and solid mass, highlighting negative space.  This work, commissioned by Dia, has it’s origins in an outdoor negative sculpture, North, South that Heizer created in 1967.  In the next room is Heizer’s Megalith #5, from 1998, a 15ft. high menhir-like stone inscribed in a rectangular space – awe inspiring. 

North, East, South, West by Michael Heitzer


On the opposite side of the building are Richard Serra’s 48 maquettes for Torqued Ellipses – you’ll find the fully realized versions on the lower level.  The models are very useful for understanding the various choices – and engineering challenges – facing Serra when he fashioned these huge steel rolls into sculptures which people can walk inside and around.  Your sense of perspective and space changes as you walk through each one of them, as they’re all  contorted at different angles.

Maquettes for Torqued Ellipses, Richard Serra

Torqued Ellipses, Richard Serra



Also on the lower level, in a cavernous, dimly lit space is Dan Flavin’s 1973 work, Untitled (to you Heiner with admiration and affection), whose optical properties and physical dimensions demand appreciation – a row of 4ft. wide modular square green fluorescent lights arranged one behind the other at 2 ft. intervals – creating an optical and physical barrier, while flooding the space with green light which changes with the natural light coming through the windows.  I spent a fair amount of time with this work, which is perfect for this space.  The piece is dedicated to Heiner Friedrich, Dia’s co-founder.

untitled (to you Heiner with admiration and affection), Dan Flavin

detail from Untitled (to you Heiner with admiration and affection), Dan Flavin

If you go up to the top floor, you’ll find work by Louise Bourgeois, including her famous 2003 Crouching Spider – very impressive – as well as a number of small works.

Crouching Spider, Louise Bourgeois, 2003


Back on the ground floor, be sure to stop at John Chamberlain’s candy-colored painted steel sculptures, which incorporate scrap metal and crushed car parts, and often have a playful feeling to them – the titles are especially whimsical.

Three Cornered Desire, by John Chamberlain, 1979


There’s a lot more to see – the museum has work by over 20 artists, including Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter and Agnes Martin.  If you’re looking for a nice day excursion out of the City, you can catch a train at Grand Central that will take you straight up there (get a combo ticket that includes entry to the museum).  The town of Beacon is lovely, with many small shops and restaurants. 

Dia also has a gallery in Chelsea, as well as site-specific works, in New York City, Utah, Germany and other locations.  You can find the list here.

Dia also hosts concerts, readings and lectures – you can find the calendar here.