MOUNT HOPE, N.Y. — Hundreds of people in the upstate New York town of Mount Hope turned out for a celebration of the Chinese New Year, enjoying food, performances, and other activities at the local youth community center on Sunday, Jan. 29.
Sounds of drums and gongs resounded through the hall as performers donning elaborate Tang-dynasty era costume welcomed the Year of the Rabbit. Others graced the stage with traditional Chinese dance, music, and song. Stands in the venue featured arts and crafts, including Chinese calligraphy.
Put on by the Mount Hope Chinese Association, the celebration follows the well-attended event held the previous Sunday (Jan. 22) in nearby Port Jervis, which attracted 2,000 people to the city’s Community Center.
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Orange County and local officials attended the celebration held from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., as well as local businesses and media. “I think this is a great event,” Mount Hope councilman Brian Carey told NTD Television, adding that he hoped to see more like it in future.
Steve Neuhaus, the county’s executive, told the broadcaster at the event that he was “super proud to have” the growing Chinese-American community in the area. “The performing arts is something that we’re very proud of as well.”
County prosecutor David M. Hoovler agreed, characterizing the mostly new arrivals as “good neighbors, good people” and commending the “tremendous” celebration.
The Orange County area has seen an influx of ethnic Chinese in recent years, especially since the 2006 establishment of Shen Yun Performing Arts, which is based in the Orange County community of Deerpark. World-renowned for its revival of classical Chinese dance, the company’s touring groups put on hundreds of shows every year in theaters on multiple continents.
Many of the newcomers arrived in the United States after fleeing religious persecution in their native China for their faith in Falun Gong, a traditional spiritual practice that has been brutally suppressed by the communist regime since 1999.
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Lance Davoren, councilmember in the Mount Hope village of Otisville, called the Chinese New Year celebration “a wonderful event for the whole community.”
Megan Wieboldt, a teacher in Port Jervis and a volunteer with Orange County’s 4-H program, attended the event, noting that she had brought a pet rabbit for the occasion. “We thought it would be cool because it’s the Year of the Rabbit to bring one of our rabbits here,” she told reporter Tingting Ke from NTD Television.
Jan. 22 this year marked the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit. Because the traditional Chinese calendar combines lunar months with a leap system to stay in sync with the earth’s orbit around the sun, the date of the Chinese new year changes every year from the perspective of the Western calendar.
Traditional lunar new year celebrations go on for 15 days, ending with the Lantern Festival. Jan. 29, marking seven days after the new year, is “renri” (人日, the “day of man”). It celebrates the goddess Nü Wa, who according to Chinese legend created humanity with clay.