Happy 4712, everyone! Friday, January 31st was Chinese (also known as Lunar) New Year, celebrated every year on the second new moon after the winter solstice.
Image courtesy NYPL.
The New Year is celebrated around the world; in Mainland China, Singapore, Thailand, and in Chinatowns across the United States and Canada. In New York’s Chinatown, Chinese New Year is celebrated with a huge and colorful parade, complete with music, dancing, and bright dragons and lions, dancing down the streets. This year, the lions and dragons were accompanied by plenty of horses.
Revelers celebrated at the 2014 Chinese New Year parade in New York City. Image courtesy Michelle Marchesseault.
In the early 20th century, New York residents celebrated Chinese New Year by decorating the streets, visiting relatives, and eating delicious foods.
Chinatown decorated for Chinese New Year, 1909. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.
A man and his daughter take in the celebration in 1909. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.
A tea room in Chinatown, circa 1903. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
In Chinese tradition, an animal is associated with each year. There are twelve animals in the Chinese Zodiac (Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig), and the cycle repeats itself every twelve years. 2014 is the Year of the Horse, followed by the Year of the Sheep in 2015.
Each animal has its own set of traits (both good and bad), lucky and unlucky numbers, directions, flowers, and colors, and horoscope that relate to people born in the animal’s year. According to this tradition, Horses, (a group which includes people born in 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978), are intelligent, kind, and talented, but can be hot-tempered, bad with money, and stubborn. They should wear lots of purple, but avoid blue and keep lots of calla lilies, jasmine, and marigolds in their home. Notable Horses include Genghis Kahn, Sir Isaac Newton, Louisa May Alcott (author of Little Women), NYC Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Ashton Kutcher. What a good looking group!
Other important Horses are Samuel Cohen, Tillie Israelson, Bertha Reiner and David Russo, just to name a few. You’ve never heard of these folks? They’re special to us – they all lived at 97 Orchard Street! Samuel, born in New York in 1882, lived in 97 Orchard Street in the 1880’s. Tillie, born in 1906 in Russia, lived in the building in the early 20th century. Bertha was born in New York in same year, and lived with her parents, Morris and Fannie, and siblings, Isador (a Dog) and Sarah (a Rat), at 97 Orchard Street in the 1910’s. David, born 1918, whose parents were probably Turkish immigrants, lived in the building in the 1910’s.