Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Roar! Chinatown’s Annual New Year Parade Offers Fiery Performances Amid Rich Cultural History

Elizabethe Bogrette/The Hoya

Stretching over seven blocks in the Chinatown area of Washington, D.C., this year’s Chinese Lunar New Year parade, held Feb. 11, featured fiery performances from community organizations and commemorative speeches from prominent international leaders. 

The parade, co-sponsored by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of Washington, DC (CCBA) and the D.C. Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs (MOAPIA), celebrated the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese calendar. A multitude of performers graced H Street over the span of a few hours, ranging from lion and dragon dance troupes to pageant queens. 

As a holiday, Lunar New Year originally derives from rituals in Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism, as well as a variety of ancient folk stories. This year, 4722 in the Chinese calendar, is the Year of the Dragon: the fifth animal in a 12-year cycle of Chinese zodiac signs which often signals themes of strength, independence and good luck in the new year. 

The brightly-colored, spirited performers celebrate a larger theme — not just of the new year, but of upholding the centuries of rich tradition that has culminated into just one day. According to the CCBA, this parade has been a staple of Chinatown for over 65 years, with people hailing from all different backgrounds to attend. Since the 1950s, rain or shine, the parade has occurred annually. It started small, but now it is clear how much of an imprint this festival has made by the tens of thousands of people returning this year.

Both the parade and the people involved with it have developed an extensive history, and the festival, for some, has become a tradition handed down from generation to generation.

“One of the things I enjoy most about the parade is the history of my family being a part of it,” Jack Lee, a former member of the Chinese Youth Club (CYC), explained in an interview published by the CCBA. Lee’s father was previously a drummer for the CYC, which originally promoted him to join the festivities. Now, both of his sons are carrying on the family legacy as part of the CYC dance troupe.

Harry Guey-Lee, another member of the CYC, spoke passionately about his own history in an interview with the Washington Post.

“We care about the little bit of connection we still have to our past and our parents and the cultural traditions that are part of Chinese culture,” Guey-Lee told the Post.

It is these traditions that keep the parade so popular, as those with connections to it continue to make the pilgrimage to Chinatown year after year. The parade itself has been able to accomplish a rare feat: keeping the original sanctity of the Lunar New Year while still embracing the novelties of today’s organizations. 

Wally Lee, former CCBA Chairman, explained that the parade is for the benefit of all D.C. communities.

“This is our way of showing inclusivity, not just to Chinese in the area, but to all ethnicities as well,” Lee explained in his CCBA interview. 

His words were increasingly evident as swarms of people arrived at 6th and H streets on the morning of the event, some who had been involved for years and others attending for the first time. 

Among the latter was Evan Young, a student at the University of Maryland, who attended for the first time this year. 

“It was honestly just really cool to watch,” Young said. “It felt like something that we were all experiencing together, as human beings.”

The parade also boosted international recognition as representatives from the District, Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China appeared on stage to make their remarks on the sacred day. 

This year’s parade continued its legacy of excellence and tradition onward into the Year of the Dragon. With such a rich history of both the event itself and the participants, the celebration of good luck in the new year has made its impact on the D.C. area. Although festivals take place worldwide, it is incredibly special to share in the celebration with the vibrant community of D.C.’s Chinatown.

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