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Visitors flood Flushing for Lunar New Year

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Flushing's Asian community celebrated the Lunar New Year with extravagant, daylong celebrations throughout the streets and inside popular shops and meeting areas. The day kicked off with a huge parade that filled downtown Flushing with dragons, marchers, fireworks and dancers."This parade is different from the other ones in the city because it's more spread out and there are more people," said Stephen Gee, who marched with the Luen Hing Lion Dancing youth group of Manhattan.Crowds that included both Asian Americans and other nationalities stood patiently in the wet winter weather to get a look at the spectacle. Although some of the paradegoers were new to the culture, many said they were enthralled by the allure and excitement of the celebration."You hear so much about the parades and what goes on. When we got here, we saw all types of food and traditions that we've never seen before," said Diego Senior, 27, of Astoria.After the parade ended around 1 p.m., the celebrations continued with two major events that showcased the different traditions with which Chinese and Korean cultures mark the occasion. At the Flushing Mall, where many Chinese organizations gathered, vendors dolled out delicious meals and snacks, jewelry and trinkets for dozens of visitors. The mall also hosted a variety of activities and shows, including a martial arts presentation, a dumpling-eating contest and Chinese folk performances."The celebrations here are better than the ones in Chinatown, because it's more like a traditional celebration," said Tiffany Lai, 23, of Brooklyn, who emigrated from China when she was younger. "In China, everything is spread out and there is a lot to do, but in Chinatown it's too crowded."Meanwhile, the Korea Village on Northern Boulevard hosted a luncheon where both the similarities and differences in the two cultures' commemorations were evident. From marching drummers to choirs singing national Korean new year songs, the event featured many performances that helped Korean Americans celebrate the holiday in their own special way."In Korea, they don't do dragon dances and our colors are different," said Thomas So, 27, of Connecticut. "In China they use a lot of red while we use more green."The Korean-American Association of Flushing, which organized the event, also paid tribute to area leaders, such as state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), Assemblywoman Ellen Young (D-Flushing) and City Councilman James Gennaro (D- Fresh Meadows), who support Asian immigrant businesses and organizations across the borough. Padavan praised the groups for their hard work in making the day's celebrations fun and memorable. "Today, the Korean and Chinese people come together on behalf of the community where they work and raise their children," he said. "It's always fun for everyone who comes out."The Lunar New Year is a major holiday in many Asian countries, including China, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. Most nations celebrate with large and small festivities stretched over several days.Asian Americans said the celebrations are more poignant for them because it gives future generations a way to retain their heritage."This event gives Asians and different races a chance to experience Chinese culture. You don't have to fly or go far to experience it," Lai said.The Year of the Rat is the first year in the 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle. The rat symbolizes many concepts, including aggression, wealth, death, charm and pestilence.Despite some of the animal's ominous symbols, paradegoers and volunteers said they were still hopeful for a bright future."The Year of the Rat is supposed to represent bad luck, but it doesn't matter. We keep [Chinese] good luck charms so that we have good luck the entire day," Gee said.Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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