Ring in the year of the rabbit

year of the rabbitIt has the makings of any good party… dancing dragons, popping firecrackers and mouth-watering food, all mixed together with a hearty splash of tradition.

February 3rd marks the start of 2011′s Chinese Lunar New Year. If you can’t swing the trip to Hong Kong to live it up with the locals, fear not! Here are just a few of the cities a bit closer to home where you can join in on the festivities.

SAN FRANCISCO

San Francisco is home to the largest Chinese New Year celebration in North America with a multitude of events like a flower fair, a multi-day street festival and even a Miss Chinatown USA pageant. The party culminates with one of the “Top 10 Parades in the World” boasting a 250-foot-long ‘Gum Lung’ Golden Dragon –manned by 100 men and women– followed by a grand finale of over 600,000 firecrackers.

(Parade: February 19th, 5:15 – 8 pm, begins at the corner of Second and Market Streets)

VANCOUVER

Escape the parade crowds and learn the tradition behind the festivities at the Vancouver Chinese Garden with Dr. Sun Yat Sen. Try your hand at calligraphy, check out a paper flower demonstration and keep an eye out for red envelope hand-outs to bring you luck for the coming year.

(Garden Festival: February 6th, 10 am – 4 pm, 578 Carrall Street)

WASHINGTON, DC

DC’s Chinatown may only be only a few blocks long, but it stands out due to the recently refurbished Friendship Arch. Here you’ll find the staples of any respectable New Year’s procession, but the real draw to this event is the giant 5 story high firecracker that’s set off at 3:45 pm to drive off evil spirits.

(Parade: February 6th, 2 – 5 pm, H Street, NW, between 6th and 8th Streets)

NEW YORK CITY

The highlight of the Big Apple’s celebration is the 12th annual parade winding through the many streets of Chinatown. Over 5,000 participants are expected to join in the parade with lion and dragon dancers, musicians, magicians and acrobats.

(Parade: February 6th, 11:30 am – 4 pm, begins at Mott Street in Little Italy)

Whether you are a true descendant of the dragon, or just someone looking to experience a little bit of Chinese culture…”Kung Hei Fat Choy” or “May you be prosperous in the New Year.”

For other city celebrations, see your local Chinatown events calendar.