Yesterday, on February 17th, we went to see the Chinese New Year Parade in Chinatown! As you may already know, Isaac and I lived in China for two years before moving to New York. We ended up going to the parade with a friend who we met in Shanghai! It was the first time we saw her since we had payday sushi and it was great to see her!
Our friend had actually been to this parade before so she convinced us to meet her for brunch at Jing Fong at 10:00. We thought it was ridiculous to meet so early when the parade didn’t start until 13:00, but she just said to trust her and we’re glad we did!
The brunch at Jing Fong was interesting. You need to keep in mind that we didn’t enjoy our time in China as much as our friend, so while she thrived in the chaos of Chinese waiters yelling and carts of mystery food rolling by, we felt like we were back in a place we didn’t love. Also, although the official menu had a lot of vegetarian and vegan options, this dim sum brunch did not.
So even though we were less than two blocks from our favorite vegan dim sum place, we were stuck eating the same two overpriced dishes, one of which was a dessert. It wasn’t the best experience but if you’re a meat eater and want to enjoy a new culture, I think you’d like this place!
The way ordering works, is that everyone gets a ticket – sometimes there will be several groups of people at one table if it’s crowded. We had two older Chinese gentlemen sitting with us which was interesting. When the carts come by, you can take plates of food and they will stamp your ticket in the correct category: small, medium, large, special, etc. Each category has a set price that is tallied up at the end.
Just like in China, not everyone at Jing Fong speak Chinese. It was really difficult for us to communicate with them to find out if things were vegan or not. Even though Isaac speaks basic Chinese! It also took 20 people to explain that we wanted two separate tickets for our group – even the two men sitting with us got involved in explaining what we want. This was a typical problem for us in China – simple things became a huge ordeal to explain and solve.
We left the restaurant after about an hour – when we first got there, it was only half full. On our way out, there were hordes of people standing in a line out the door. When we got out onto the street to find a spot to watch the parade, it was no different. There were already thousands of people standing and waiting for a parade that wouldn’t start for two more hours!
It was lucky we came early, although we did had another friend who came out at noon and he managed to find an ok spot to watch from as well. But if you want a guaranteed great spot to watch from, definitely come early. The earlier the better!
As for the parade itself, I wasn’t too impressed but I may be a little jaded. There were many impressive dragons that got better the later it got. Those and the lion dancers were amazing. But like all parades in New York, in between the cool performers were people campaigning and I hate that every parade is so political.
The police department performed too and that part was great, but I could have done without all the boring stuff in between! If you haven’t been to Chinatown or New York before, you may not know this, but most police officers in Chinatown are Chinese or of Chinese descent, which is really cool!
So this was our third parade in New York. The other two we had experienced were the Caribbean and Halloween parades and they both had similar boring political fillers in between the cool stuff. I guess they don’t get the necessary funds without agreeing to include these? I’m not really sure to be honest.
All in all, the Chinese New Year Parade was interesting to see. I definitely recommend seeing it at least once, especially if you haven’t been to China and want to experience the culture a little. The crowds to get in an out are also very authentic, and if you think being smushed by crowds of people is unique to New York, don’t be fooled and read about my description of my daily rush hour commutes in Shanghai!
The highlight of the day for me was two dogs, a husky and a golden retriever dressed in traditional golden Chinese lion uniforms. Just like the ones that are worn for the lion dance! Did you get to see the parade? Tell me about your favorite part in the comments below.