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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Year of the Dragon: Chinese New Year in Paradise

The Chinese New Year Parade is just part of the month-long celebrations in Honolulu. Credit: Valdezign.

By Erin Behan

Hear that roar? It’s a month of Chinese Lunar New Year festivities in Honolulu getting off to a good start. The year 2012, of course, is the Year of the Dragon, and the celebrations run from Jan. 6- Jan. 21 in Chinatown. The best part about entrance to each of the month’s Chinese New Year events (besides getting in touch with both Chinese and Hawaiian culture)? They’re all free.

Things kick off with the free Chinese New Year Festival Jan. 6 and 7 at the Chinatown Cultural Plaza, which is the place to celebrate the lunar New Year and see feng shui and martial arts demonstrations. Fabulous Chinese food, of course, is a given.

The celebrations continue on Jan. 13 and 14 at the Chinatown Cultural plaza with the Chinatown Open House. Foods to look out for include jin doi (Chinese doughnut), gau (steamed pudding) and jook (rice soup) — all are popular dishes for celebrating the New Year. Local music groups and dance troupes keep the mood light as stomachs get heavy.

A favorite and visually spectacular way to celebrate Chinese New Year — Choy Cheng, Traditional Lion Dance Blessings — happens on Jan. 13 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Beginning at 8 South King Street and continuing to Maunakea, Smith, Pauahi and Nuuanu streets, the Narcissus Queen and her court move from business to business granting New Year’s blessings. The streets light up with firecrackers, confetti rains down, and lions dance about — an impressive event to witness on your cheap Hawaii vacation.

There’s a street event on Jan. 14 as well, with the Night in Chinatown Parade. The parade starts at the State Capital on Hotel Street and runs to River Street, with more than 80 marching groups performing. A spectacular 150-foot dragon ends the parade. If you miss the first, there’s a second Chinese New Year Festival at the Chinatown Cultural Plaza on Jan. 20 and 21, with all the same food, gifts and singing and dancing.

No matter which event you check out on your cheap Hawaii vacation, you’ll want to check into a nearby Honolulu hotel, such as the Aston at the Executive Centre Hotel or the Pagoda Hotel.

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Erin Behan is a freelance writer and editor out of Brooklyn, N.Y., who counts good food, intoxicating drink and adventurous travel among her favorite things.

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