By Tim Harfmann
Thousands gathered in Manhattan’s Chinatown to spread good spirits and start off the New Year with a bang. Hundreds of thousands of firecrackers popped as part of the joyful occasion. “Everyone celebrates! Everybody eats! Everybody’s happy!” said Ruby Qnng, a performer at the New York City celebration.
Catholics at Chinatown’s Transfiguration Church also celebrated, praying in Mandarin and asking for a blessed New Year. “(We) pray to God to give us a good beginning so, for the rest of the year, we will live the gospel,” said Yee Ling Poon, a worshiper attending Mass on New Year’s Day.
In the Brooklyn diocese, Chinese-Catholics make up at least 10 percent of those newly baptized into the faith each year. At the most recent Easter vigil, nearly 350 Chinese-Americans received the sacraments. They were divided among four different parishes of the diocese: Saint Michael’s and St. John Vianney in Queens, as well as Saint Agatha and Our Lady of Perpetual Help churches in Brooklyn. The growth of Catholics matches an overall increase in the Chinese-American population in New York.
The Chinese community is celebrating the Year of the Pig, part of the 12-year cycle calendar. The pig symbolizes good fortune and wealth. An annual New Years tradition is passing out red envelopes. “You put money in there, or sometimes you put candy in there. It’s basically good luck,” said Ling Poon. But more important than receiving cash is prayer. “I’m praying for peace in the world and that’s what we need.” Keeping those intentions close to their hearts as they dance, sing and celebrate.
The Chinese New Year festivities will continue with a parade in Chinatown on Sunday, February 17th at 1pm.