Although D.C.’s Chinatown is small and continues to shrink every year, no one can say our Chinese New Year celebration doesn’t rock.

Thousands don puffy coats and knit caps every year and flood into the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro stop looking to secure prime parade viewing spots along 7th and 8th streets.

This year — 4716 — is the Year of the Dog. (Of course, here in America, every year is the year of the dog.)

Put on by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, this year’s parade will kick off at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18. The lineup will include marching bands, Kung Fu demonstrations, beauty pageant winners and everyone’s favorite — lion and dragon dances.

You may be familiar with the colorful lions and dragons — often red and yellow and bearing fur, teeth and penetrating eyes — but you may ask yourself, how can I tell if it is a lion or a dragon?

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According to, the secret is in the number of dancers. A lion is generally operated by two dancers — one for the head and one for the tail. But a dragon is much longer. The dance is more difficult and is comprised of a larger team, each member holding its portion aloft on a stick.

Some lion dances include spectators “feeding” greens such as lettuce to the lion in order to secure good fortune.

Chinese tradition dictates giving children red envelopes with money to mark the coming of the new year. According to, anyone who is not working and not married qualifies for a red envelope, so all those boomerang kids living in basements across the U.S. may expect some beer money to mark the occasion.

The parade — about 50 minutes long — starts at 6th and I, NW, and winds around for seven blocks, ending at 6th and H. The celebration culminates in the lighting of firecrackers, which is scheduled to start between 3:45 and 4 p.m.

Other local Chinese New Year events include:

  • The Smithsonian American Art Museum, 8th and F streets, NW, is hosting a Chinese New Year Festival from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10, featuring a lion-awakening ceremony, music, dancing and acrobatics. Special activities for children include paper cutting, a scavenger hunt, lantern-making and panda crafts.
  • The Kennedy Center, 2700 F St., NW, is holding a Lunar New Year Celebration Thursday, Feb. 15, through Saturday, Feb. 17. The Chengdu Puppets take the stage at 6 p.m. Thursday, singing, dancing and performing acrobatics. Following at 8 p.m. the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra, Tan Dun, conductor, plays music by Stravinsky, Guan Xia and Dun. Scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday is Chengdu’s traditional folk music, featuring bamboo flutes, and at 9 a.m. Saturday is Chinese New Year Family Day. This free event allows children to dress up in traditional Chinese costumes, make paper crafts, try their hand at calligraphy or painting, watch dancers and acrobats, and explore the Chinese zodiac symbols and their meanings. The festival culminates with a 6 p.m. performance of the Sichuan Opera.

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