Golden confetti flying through the air and the sounds of drums, clashing cymbals and cheering swamped Chicago’s West Argyle Street for the annual Lunar New Year celebration on Feb. 5.
This festivity has been a tradition in the Chicago North Side area for over 40 years. Unlike the virtual festival last year where performers streamed demonstrations on YouTube due to the pandemic, residents were able to celebrate in person.
Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year, is celebrated by East and Southeast Asian countries and their international diasporas.
A handful of politicians made commemorative statements before the parade began, including Illinois senator Mike Simmons and a few alderpeople. Mayor Lori Lightfoot gave an opening address where she shared admiration for the cultural presence of the Asian American community in Chicago.
“You are an important part of who we are as Chicago,” Lightfoot said. “We must celebrate the diversity and the richness that you bring to Chicago and have brought for decades.”
West Argyle Street Historic District is a neighborhood with a strong Asian cultural presence, featuring Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai restaurants on virtually all of its street corners.
Residents from all over Chicago come to the neighborhood for the Argyle St. celebration and local restaurants.
“I think it’s important to want to have an awareness and gain a better understanding of different cultures,” said first-time attendee and Chicago resident Cynthia Tran.
Multiple community organizations marched in the parade, including the South-East Asia Center and Uptown United – the local economic development organization that hosted the event.
Longtime participants of the festival were also in attendance, like Avondale resident Lynn Sheldon, who said she has been to “over a dozen” of the annual celebrations over the years and enjoys being “with people from all over the city.”
With 2022 being the year of the tiger per the Chinese zodiac cycle, many of the festival attractions featured the fierce animal, like the people on floats in tiger costumes or the banners with tiger graphics.
As the color of good luck in Chinese culture, the color red appeared on paper lanterns, gift bags, stuffed tigers and the jackets of acrobats in red gymnastics wheels. Many parade marchers and watchers alike wore cultural attire, mostly red with gold accents.
“It’s nice to see people dressed in áo dài, Vietnamese dress,” said Chicago resident Leslie Lucas.
After the formal parade display, a crowd gathered in a large circle for the second part of the celebration – flower dances.
A small group of children danced in formation with conical hats, twirling them around and moving swiftly in unison.
“It’s an enjoyable and colorful parade,” said Chicago resident Alex Holterman. “It’s fun to watch the drummers and dancers and fun to see a celebration of my heritage.”
Some attendees at the festival expressed their excitement about lawmakers in New York pushing for Lunar New Year to be recognized as a federal holiday.
“I think that it’s a wonderful idea. [Lunar New Year] is the true new year and people all over the world celebrate it,” said Sheldon. “For European people like me, it’s a good thing to be part of other people’s celebrations; it opens your world and makes it better.”
All photos by Astry Rodriguez / North by Northwestern. Photo slideshow developed by Nathanial Ortiz.