Although the Lunar New Year began on February 1st, it will be celebrated on Sunday with a small street festival in Harvard Square and a car parade from Boston that will stop at City Hall. Both are free, public events.
For those missing during the pandemic, the Chinese New Year celebration, led in Harvard Square by the Hong Kong Restaurant and Harvard Square Business Association, is not that — and not just a celebration of the Chinese people’s New Year of the Tiger.
Instead, the celebration on Sunday will be led by the Cambridge Sino-American Association, which was formed during the pandemic to organize against a wave of anti-Asian hate crimes and partners with the Chinese American Heritage Foundation and the Chinese American Citizens Alliance Boston. The events aim to “help the community better understand Asian culture, not just Chinese culture,” said Zhiqiang Fang, president of the local group.
“This is not just a Chinese New Year celebration. We intentionally use the term Lunar New Year because other Asian countries celebrate Lunar New Year – Vietnam, Malaysia, Korea and others,” said Wilson Lee, another organizer of the event. The holiday is celebrated by more than 1.5 billion people under different names.
Pan-Asian and African American
The Harvard Square street festival will include a lion dance, song, dance and performances of kung fu, brush calligraphy and traditional Chinese painting, Fang said, followed by the lion dance team blessing some companies. He called the celebrations a continuation of the group’s work “to spread appreciation of Asian culture throughout the community,” which included monetary donations, books and ceremonial red lanterns at schools like Peabody and MLK, he said.
Just before the street festival, the 2nd Annual Greater Boston Chinese/Lunar New Year Rolling Car Parade will take place – a debut since 2021, when the Lunar New Year lion dance in Chinatown was cancelled.
“Everyone was depressed because we were in the middle of the pandemic. We couldn’t get out. We wanted to celebrate but also be safe,” said Wilson Lee, a car parade organizer who has been involved in community service in the Chinese-American community for nearly 50 years, including serving as chairman of the August Moon Festival and president of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association , manager of the New Year’s lion dance in Chinatown. “We’ve had a lot of positive feedback, and some of the churches we haven’t had the opportunity to go to are like, ‘Are you going to do that next year? Can you make this a tradition?’”
In order not to disrupt the celebrations in Chinatown, which were returning this year, organizers scheduled the parade for two weeks later.
Come to City Hall
Sunday’s parade begins at 1:00 p.m. at Boston’s Chinatown Gate and will pass through a dozen communities in the greater Boston area – five more than last year – including Cambridge, Somerville and Arlington, as well as Belmont, Winchester, Lexington, Malden, Waltham, Newton , Brookline, Dorchester and Quincy. (There’s a rain or snow date on March 6.) It’s expected to arrive at Cambridge City Hall around 1:30-1:45 p.m. and be greeted by Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui. A table will be set up to distribute fortune cookies, fortune candies and oranges to spread the holiday cheer, and there will be a lion dance performance, organizers said.
Vanessa Guo, the newly crowned Miss Chinese Boston, is expected to attend, but the parade marshal is Enoch “Woody” Woodhouse II, a Hudson resident who received a Congressional Gold Medal as one of the surviving Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, named Lee .
“Feb. 1 was the official start of our lunar new year. It’s also the start of Black History Month,” Lee said. “You see all this Asian hate and you hear that Asians are not part of the American mainstream. What better way to show our patriotism and love for this country?” (The Marshal of Honor last year was Seaman 1st Class Tony Moy, another World War II veteran and recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal.)
Outward from Chinatown
The route taken by Woodhouse, Guo and the rest of the parade is no coincidence, Lee said, but imbued with just as much symbolism.
Early Chinese immigrants settled in Chinatown because of immigration restrictions such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Alien Land Laws, which prevented them from owning property. The laws were repealed in 1943 when China became a wartime ally, and this allowed for Asian American expansion into the suburbs. “If you look at the parade route, it’s kind of a story of our community expanding outward. So we’re going from Chinatown to Malden in the western suburbs and then to Quincy,” Lee said. “We hope it grows every year.”
The earliest immigrants were the Han Chinese, who speak Cantonese, followed by Mandarin speakers. “One of the things we want to accomplish with the parade is to connect the traditional Cantonese-speaking community in Chinatown with the Mandarin-speaking community in the suburbs,” Lee said.
Lunar New Year in Harvard Square
While the car parade continues from Cambridge City Hall, the Harvard Square celebration at Brattle Plaza is expected to begin around 2 p.m., Fang said.
The Harvard Square Business Association highlighted several other ways to celebrate the Lunar New Year, including highlighting Asian restaurants in the area to eat at. The newest, Wusong Road, offers a roast duck that must be ordered a day in advance and is limited to 50 per week.
The association’s website quoted Paul Lee of the Hong Kong restaurant as saying hoped to bring back the restaurant’s Chinese New Year celebrations in 2023 – although Fang said his own conversations with Paul Lee have raised the possibility that Hong Kong could still celebrate this year.