Lots of eating, a touch of singing and a touch of dancing. They’re common ways to celebrate civic calendar events. And in this respect Chinese New Year in Chamblee on Feb. 5 was globally conventional. Participants adorned traditional costumes. Traditional dishes were served. Traditional folk songs received an annual dusting off–just as Americans like tuxedos, black-eyed peas and Auld Lang Syne.
Where Eastern and Western protocol split was along partying timelines. It was only day three of a three-week celebration.
“I know, you guys only have one night for celebrations,” joked Ming Li, a 36-year-old who traveled from Birmingham, Ala., to join the festivities at the Cultural Center of Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Atlanta. “It’s a special new year for us.”
It’s special because the animal associated with 2011, the Golden Rabbit, only comes around every 60 years. “This rabbit is [a symbol of] prosperity and good luck,” said Li. “It will be good for the economy I think.”
Benefitting from a financial upturn during a traditionally chilly time for retailers were the many food vendors inside the packed center, where items such as fried squid balls sold for a $1.
“I basically came to eat,” said Darren Howarth, a local resident who also attended last year’s celebrations. “There’s so much food that it’d be remiss not to tuck in.”
Also inside the center, which was hard to move around in at times, were a number of stage performances. Chinese folk music, with performances by Taiwanese youth groups, were part of a lineup that included opera and dragon dances.
Celebrations took place throughout the Chamblee-Doraville corridor, home to metro Atlanta’s largest Asian population. A Chinese shopping mall’s entrance on New Peachtree Road displayed a colorful banner as costumed dragons roamed around paths; firecrackers popped and created smoke clouds.
Nearby, Vietnamese residents also observed the new year, called Tet. While both cultures share the same timeline for their traditional calendars, there is a distinct difference. In Vietnam, it’s the year of the cat.
“I don’t understand much about the animals and years,” said Howarth. “But these events are good because it helps increase a spirit of awareness of other cultures. That’s one of the things I like about the Buford Highway area –there’s a lot of culture, and I’ve been able to learn about it.”
The Chinese New Year is also referred to as the Chinese Lunar Calendar, which starts on the second moon after the winter solstice. Animals represent a 12-year cycle for dating each year.