For me, the ‘regular’ New Year has always been supremely disappointing. Due in part to globally inflated expectation, the night has never lived up to the description my co-workers provide in the annual ‘New Year’s Eve in East Williamsburg!’ email chain. If you’re new to the city, this means you’ll probably end up in some ‘charming’ warehouse off the Graham Avenue stop with 60 people you’ll never see again.
You’ll begin to take stock of the evening at 11pm, 30 minutes after half your friends go down (hard) for the count. Following a midnight ‘champagne toast’ that was supposed to be included in the $150 ticket fee, you’ll wander home, shocked that you fell for it. And then you’ll do it all again next year.
Chinese New Year, however, is different. Strip away the expensive parties and sharp wardrobes, add a few dozen homemade Chinese lion costumes and 400 million confetti launchers, and you’ll be getting close. Though I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy several Chinese New Year celebrations in New York City, I knew I had to go all out this year. And we’re just getting started.
One of the most enjoyable things about living in the city of San Francisco is how visually dynamic it is. There is simply art everywhere, but not in a way that inundates you. The most interesting pieces are hidden away in nooks and crannies, and many people often overlook the “candy” placed in prominent locations. ART on STREETS highlights this city’s art through the lens of a “Polaroid” camera (except it’s an app on the phone).
Late one afternoon while wandering through Chinatown I came across this dragon. The extreme hustle and bustle of the neighborhood makes it really easy to miss the artwork in the area; most of the time shoppers and tourists overflow into the streets, blocking views of walls and building faces. I was lucky enough to find a clear view of the whole mural. This piece fits well into the neighborhood by highlighting contrasting colors: Chinatown has a lot of reds and yellows, whereas the dragon painting features the calming hues of flowing watery blues. This piece is on Clay just east of Fillmore. It may not be there for much longer as it seems to be defaced and painted over a number of times. What in your life has been recently covered or uncovered?
When living abroad, it can be easy to overlook the cultural events of foreign countries other your own as you attempt to integrate your identity into a new culture. As I navigated the capital of French culture, I was nearly blindsided by the country with the world’s largest population–China. There is not only a sizable Chinese ex-pat community in Paris, but their celebration of Chinese New Year is also spectacular. As I watched the parade, I ruminated on how cultures are transformed through settlement in a new country and was struck by the multi-culturalism that exists in France despite government attempts to suggest otherwise. Paris’ Chinatown is located in the thirteenth arrondisement, centered at the Place d’Italie. A second enclave is located on the right bank in Belleville. Chinese and other Asian immigrants began to move in large numbers in the thirteenth arrondisement in the early 1970s, taking advantage of low rents and high vacancy rates within the urban renewal projects of the Gaulist government.
This year in the Chinese calendar represents the year of the Rabbit. Individuals born within the year of the rabbit are known for being cooperative, generous, and sophisticated. They can also be timid and have knee jerk conservative reactions But there wasn’t anything conservative about the celebration of cultures I witnessed last week. While the Chinese have been able to replicate their own culture in this neighborhood, the parade also incorporated many other minority groups. The groups sang, danced, and played music while marching down the parade route amidst strings of firecrackers. Dragons swept along the path and hundreds of marchers hopped along the route dressed as rabbits. Thousands of Parisians flocked to Chinatown in order to take part in the festivities, which were captured in the photographs below: