The Chinese New Year comes to Chinatown. The Khoo family explains their traditions.
Grandma Leung, the elder of the Khoo family, emigrated from China to the United States with her husband and daughter. Leung actively participates in the Philadelphia Chinese New Year celebrations and has passed down Chinese New Year traditions to her daughter, Jackie Khoo and granddaughter, Jennifer Khoo.
“It’s a new beginning,” Leung said. “Everything comes alive and is beautiful again, just like springtime.”
Like the Khoo’s, Chinese-American families across the city are preparing to ring in the New Year in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, located at 10th and Arch streets. For these families, the celebrations, which began this past Saturday, Jan. 21, honor both the beginning of a new year and the traditions of home.
“Traditionally, [the Chinese New Year] is the most important day of the year,” Jackie Khoo said. “Families gather together and the younger generations pay respect to their seniors.”
According to the family, much of the celebratory traditions of China have been carried to Philadelphia by families and ancestors who have come before. The Chinese calendar begins this weekend marking the celebration of the Year of the Dragon.
The Year of the Dragon is the mightiest of the Chinese signs, symbolizing ambition, enthusiasm and passion. The celebratory festivities kicked-off Saturday, Jan. 21 with the Abakus Chinese New Year Party, complete with a live DJ, discounted clothes and free drinks.
Also true to tradition, Philadelphia hosted a Hong Kong-style flower show for the first time. As Leung said, the Chinese New Year is about new beginnings. The flower show, which was held Jan. 21-22 at the 10th Street Plaza, symbolizes “growth and rebirth.”
On Sunday, Jan. 22, Philadelphia suburban high school Great Malvern High, hosted a Chinese New Year Community Gala, complete with traditional songs, dances, crafts, games, stories and food. Later that night, the first of two Midnight New Year celebrations was held in Chinatown. The grand-finale featured the Midnight Lion dance, expressive of joy and happiness in the New Year.
In this traditional dance young men carry the Chinese dragon with poles and parade down the street. It is held on the fourth and 15th day of the Chinese New Year celebration, which, this year, is on Jan. 22 and Jan. 29.
The celebrations will culminate on Feb. 4 at the Penn Museum. This final celebration will include arts and crafts, martial arts demonstrations, music and dance, and a lion dance to end the day.
“[The Chinese New Year means] lots of good food, money, loud fire crackers and lion dances,” said Jacki Khoo’s daughter Jennifer Khoo, 19.
As a Philadelphia native, she will participate in the Midnight New Year celebration in Chinatown and said she is confident that this year’s Chinese New Year celebrations will be better than ever.
Sarah Elizabeth Guy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.