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: