The Lunar New Year, Chicago style

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For some of us, the Chinese New Year is a much awaited time of year. Mid-February means homemade dumplings, red envelopes filled with spending money, family and friends and an outburst of nostalgia for Chinese customs. But living on campus away from our families didn't stop my friends and I from celebrating the new year in our own way!

Arriving in old Chinatown around 11am on Sunday morning, we watched as the different restaurants, athletic and cultural clubs, employment unions and public schools put the finishing touches on their respective floats. The old men were beginning to light the fire beneath their drums, unwatched groups of little children were excitedly throwing handfuls of celebration sparks, and the crowd was already beginning to form, chattering together in Mandarin, Cantonese, English, Spanish, and all the languages in between.

Just as we were about to get lunch, the Chicago Chinatown Dragon Society appeared on the avenue, complete with drums, fire, and costumes. A huge crowd formed as the dragons danced right there on streetwalk in front of the Chinatown Public Library branch. Tommy Wong, the owner of Lao Sze Chuan in new Chinatown, conducted the performance and finished it off with a traditional flag dance.

Walking up and down Wentworth Ave, there wasn't a single bakery or restaurant that wasn't chock full with local Chicagoans. So instead of a deliciously cheap Chinese bun or an opulent dim sum brunch, we opted for a small restaurant tucked away in one of the side streets. New year decorations lined the windows, a freshly roasted duck hung next to the cashier, and green onion pancake upon green onion pancake sat along the front counter. Despite the huge influx of customers from the festivities, my friends and I enjoyed a huge family-style meal of spicy tofu, Chinese sausage, garlic spinach, and of course, rice, for just $12 total.

We finished lunch just as the parade was beginning. Approaching Wentworth, we could just see the color of red as it flickered above the heads of the spectators. Having made our way to the front, we could see the many different groups represented in the parade, waving, tossing candies, and wishing the new year luck. The parade didn't just include Chinatown organizations but several Chicago High School marching bands, a group of bagpipe players, the Taiwanese and the Korean cultural chapters of Chicago as well.

Returning to Hyde Park, we gathered in a friends' apartment with a big group of other UChicago students to make dinner dumplings from scratch. Together, we finished the night eating and toasting the new year.

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Jean-Herve said:

I love Tommy Wong!

Michael said:

I love Chinese New Years. I spent a year over there trying to source some titanium and tungsten rings for a company. Everyone gets to have a two week vacation and it is good times to be had all around.

Joss said:

The next dragon year is 2011

love to see the Chinese new year on different country..

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