The Chinese zodiac concludes its current 12-year cycle in early 2019 with the Year of the Pig. According to lore, the pig (as a zodiac animal personality, that is) is associated with wealth, hard work and good fortune. Those all sound pretty good.
Also good: the Lunar New Year events that take place across the five boroughs, giving you a chance to join in one of NYC’s most exciting cultural celebrations. It’s a time for costumed lion dances, dragon processions, red envelopes (ideally filled with money), traditional foods and paying your respects to the gods. Read on for more details.
When it is
The Gregorian calendar may tell us that the new year is already in effect, but the traditional lunar calendar says otherwise (it also says that year 4717 is coming up). That calendar is used by Chinese, Korean, Tibetan, Mongolian and Vietnamese populations to determine holidays; it usually places New Year’s at the end of January or in early February. During the 15 days that follow, numerous celebrations—parades, fireworks, eating of traditional (and “lucky”) foods and, at the culmination, a lantern festival—take place.
In 2019 Lunar New Year falls on February 5, the date of the second new moon after the winter solstice.
Where to go
New York City has a handful of Chinatowns, where most major Lunar New Year activities take place—although many cultural institutions throughout the five boroughs hold their own events.
The most famous such neighborhood is in downtown Manhattan, a wide pocket spreading on either side of the Bowery mostly south of Canal Street; Mott Street has the highest concentration of shops and restaurants. The downtown part of Flushing, Queens, which centers on the intersection of Roosevelt Avenue and Main Street, has a predominantly Asian population as well, and the eastern section of Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, along Eighth Avenue, is chockablock with busy Asian markets and dumpling spots. Small but burgeoning Chinatowns exist around Avenue U in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and 18th Avenue in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.
What to eat
Traditional holiday foods include dumplings, long noodles, peanuts, eight-treasure rice (a dessert with dried fruits) and New Year cake (typically a steamed cake with lots of flavor variations). You’ll find plenty of places along the main Chinatown strips in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn serving up menus filled with New Year’s delicacies. Each area holds its share of dim sum palaces, noodle joints and seafood restaurants—and the cuisines go beyond the regions of China, with Korean, Malaysian and Vietnamese establishments as well.
The main events
Boisterous, colorful parades held in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn highlight February’s calendar; all of them are family friendly and worth attending to get a feel for the holiday.
Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival
February 5, Sara D. Roosevelt Park, Chinatown/Lower East Side
Start the Year of the Pig off with a bang at this sparkle-filled, performance-heavy gathering. A lion’s dance troupe continues the fun along the main streets of Chinatown.
Lunar New Year Parade (Queens)
February 9, Flushing
Arrive at Historic St. George’s Church before 10:30am to meet up with other revelers. The parade begins around 11am, at Union Street and 37th Avenue.
Parade and Festival (Brooklyn)
February 10 (tentative, check website for updates), Sunset Park
Plan to show up late morning as close as you can get to Eighth Avenue and 50th Street for music, dancing and other performances.
Lunar New Year Parade (Manhattan)
February 17, Chinatown
This street party is the holiday’s biggest gala, with roughly 500,000 turning out for it each year. Be on the lookout for dragons, floats and a hail of red and gold.
Other places to celebrate
A number of museums, historical societies and parks hold related events that serve as good introductions to Lunar New Year, especially for children.
January 19–February 9, various branches
Dance, puppet shows, story times and crafting headline weeks’ worth of events (beginning the last week of January) at the Queens Public Library.
Staten Island Museum
February 2, Snug Harbor
The local Korean cultural center pitches in for the games, art and food at this New Year event.
Greenbelt Nature Center
February 3, Staten Island
Spend an hour watching the kids learn about the holiday’s origins and make crafts.
February 5, Brooklyn
The Audubon Center hosts nature-related programs, while Lefferts Historic House assembles folks for paper-lantern making.
February 6, Upper West Side, Manhattan
For its yearly concert to honor Lunar New Year, the New York Philharmonic plays a new violin concerto by Chinese composer Tan Dun, who won an Oscar for the score to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
February 6, Chelsea, Manhattan
The Rubin observes the Tibetan New Year (known as Losar)—it’s year 2146 but still the Year of the Pig—with an evening dance program.
The Met Fifth Avenue
February 9, Upper East Side, Manhattan
For 2018’s Year of the Dog, the Met had a puppy-themed day in addition to an afternoon of workshops and art activities. We doubt we’ll see pigs in the museum, but here’s hoping.
February 9, Upper East Side, Manhattan
A kung fu demonstration will be among the highlights of the day.
February 9, Lower Manhattan
The cultural performances here kick off with a lion dance.
Queens Botanical Garden
February 9, Flushing, Queens
Come by for a family-friendly afternoon of crafts, stories, dance performances and an ongoing plant sale.
Brooklyn Borough Hall
February 15, Downtown Brooklyn
It’s an evening of Chinese food and performing arts, hosted by borough president Eric Adams.
Museum of Chinese in America
February 16, Chinatown, Manhattan
Besides a family day of arts and storytelling, this is a chance to be excited for the new Pearl River Mart outpost opening at the museum in February.
Lantern Cultural Festival
March 24, Sunset Park, Brooklyn
The Lantern Cultural Festival, with its martial arts performances and lion dancing, is the final installment of New Year–related happenings.