Chinatown in the Year of the Monkey – a Photo Essay

Here is a new year’s celebration that lasts all year long. On February 8, 2016, New York City rang in the Year of the Monkey at Sara D. Roosevelt Park with the traditional Firecracker Ceremony, and on Sunday, the 17th annual Lunar New Year’s Parade will wind all through Chinatown. But that’s just the beginning–the Year of the Monkey goes on until January 27th, 2017.

Gold monkey ornament - New York City Chinatown in the Year of the Monkey Photo Essay via @GetawayMavens

Golden monkey ornament sold on Chinatown street corner is a bargain at $2 a pop.

Monkey is the ninth in the 12-year cycle of Chinese zodiac; last year it was the Year of the Sheep and next it will be the Rooster. It’s based on a lunar calendar dating back to 12 AD in which monkey years are all multiples of twelve.

Chinatown corner shop selling monkey ornaments and calendars. New York City Chinatown in the Year of the Monkey Photo Essay via @GetawayMavens

2016 doesn’t just have any old monkey, this year is associated with Fire Monkeys. There are five elemental monkeys in all: fire, wood, water, gold, and earth. Element-sign combinations recur every sixty years and are believed to affect personalities of people born in those years. Babies born in the year of the Fire Monkey are predicted to be  ambitious and adventurous, but irritable. Monkeys, watch out, the Year of the Monkey does not bode well for those born on this 12-year cycle. (Get the scoop on all this monkey business in Chinese Zodiac highlights.)

Firecracker Ceremony on Chinese New Year. New York City Chinatown in the Year of the Monkey Photo Essay via @GetawayMavens

By the time I arrived in mid speech at the Firecracker Ceremony on Monday, February 8th, the viewing perimeter was several persons thick. I couldn’t see any of the performances. But after the first few firecrackers, a spectator relinquished her park bench vantage point and I was able to look down on the the cordoned off stage area where the firecrackers were being set off.


The firecrackers were deafening and by the end of the display the entire square was covered in a dense layer of smoke.

Chinatown Firecracker Ceremony - Photo Essay on Chinatown in the Year of the Monkey via @GetawayMavens

After the smoke dissipated, I could see the performers as they left the staging area and I got to meet a couple of lion dancers. The Staten Island Lion Dancing team practices all year long–performing at birthdays, weddings, and other events–to be ready for Lunar New Year celebrations. Founded in 2004 by Master Glenn Chin, the multi-generational team consists of Lion Dancers, Drummers, Cymbal and Gong Players.

Lion dancers cart off costume. Photo Essay on Chinatown in the Year of the Monkey via @GetawayMavens

Lion Dancing costume hauled away in a cart by the Staten Island Lion Dancing team.

Unlike dragon dancing, lions are typically operated by two dancers and it’s harder to see the dancers’ faces as they are screened by the lion costume.

Chinese Dragon - Photo Essay on Chinatown in the Year of the Monkey via @GetawayMavens

Dragon costume seen on the streets of Chinatown.

Even after the lions were disassembled, the SIL team continued to ring in the year enthusiastically through the streets of Chinatown. They will be back in Chinatown on Sunday, February 14, for the 17th Annual Lunar New Year Parade & Festival and again on February 20th for Super Saturday-Lion Dancing. Full celebration schedule, with appearances around greater New York City can be found here.


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In Category: New York, Travel Photos

Sandra Foyt is a storyteller, photographer, and road trip junkie. A veteran of many cross-country road trips, she drove Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the fossil freeway, the extraterrestrial highway, and even “the loneliest road in America.” Nowadays, she stars in her own version of "Where's Waldo?," always in search of sweet treats and grand adventures.

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