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Where to celebrate the Year of the Dragon

Courtesy Bellagio Las Vegas

"Our dragons represent all of the elements: water, fire, wood, earth and metal," said Andres Garcia, executive director of Horticulture at Bellagio in Las Vegas.

The Chinese New Year (also known as the Lunar New Year) begins on Jan. 23 and will be welcomed in Asian communities with 15 days of food, firecrackers and fanfare designed to ensure that the Year of the Dragon is full of good fortune. 

In the Chinese zodiac, the dragon is the most auspicious symbol of success and happiness, so this year’s celebrations will have a special meaning. “The dragon is very bold, unafraid and strong,” said Karen Eng, spokesperson for the Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Festival and Parade held in San Francisco. “And in China, the dragon is the symbol of the emperor and the son of heaven.”

Major Chinese New Year celebrations will be held Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney and many other cities around the world, including these five U.S. cities.  

 New York
In New York City, the Chinese New Year kicks off with a bang — literally — on Jan. 23 at the Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival in Roosevelt Park in Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood. Chinatown’s Lunar New Year Parade and Festival takes place Jan. 29 and will fill Chinatown’s streets with floats, marching bands, lion and dragon dances, musical performances, acrobats, magicians and more. More details at http://explorechinatown.com/

Seattle celebrates the Lunar New Year with a festival on Jan. 28 in the Chinatown–International District in Hing Hay Park. Activities include lion and dragon dances, Taiko drumming, martial arts, a food walk featuring a neighborhood-wide tasting menu and the third annual children’s costume parade contest. More details at http://www.cidbia.org/events/lunar-new-year-celebration-2012-year-of-the-dragon.

Washington, D.C.
In Washington, D.C., the Chinese consolidated Benevolent Society will host its Chinese New Year Parade on Jan. 29 in the city’s downtown Chinatown neighborhood with kung fu demonstrations, a dragon dance, a lion dance, costumed dancers and the lighting of a giant firecracker. That same day, Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown Community Cultural Center will host a Chinese New Year Festival with hands-on arts and craft projects, cultural displays and performances. On Feb. 3, the Textile Museum opens “Dragons, Nagas, and Creatures of the Deep,” an exhibit filled with textiles depicting dragons and other legendary creatures.

Knight Lights Photography

San Francisco's illuminated nighttime parade is one of the largest Chinese New Year parades outside of Asia.

San Francisco
With 6,000 participants, 22 floats and numerous marching bands, drill teams and school groups, San Francisco’s illuminated nighttime parade, held this year on Feb. 11, is one of the largest Chinese New Year parades outside of Asia.

In addition to a 250-foot-long dragon (“Gum Lung”) that must be held up by a team of 100 men and women, this year’s parade will include the Cangzhou Liuji Lion Dance Team, which features acrobatics and martial arts, and the Jingxing Lahua Art Troup from China’s Hebei Province. “Their dancing rhythm is created by such motions as wrist turning, arm gnarling and leg whiffing,” said parade spokesperson Karen Eng. “And their props include big vases, umbrellas and fans.” More details at http://www.chineseparade.com/

On Jan. 29, anyone born in the Year of the Dragon (1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000 and 2012) will receive free admission to the Lunar New Year Celebration being held at the San Francisco Zoo, where entertainment will include acrobatic performances, traditional lion and folk dancing, Chinese yo-yo tricks and more.

Las Vegas 
Several hotels in Las Vegas are welcoming in the Chinese New Year in a big way as well.

On Jan. 23 at 1 p.m., a dragon dance will begin at The Venetian and make its way through the casino to the waterfall at the atrium gardens in The Palazzo, where the unveiling of a 128-foot, fire-breathing dragon will take place. The dragon will breathe fire daily at 1 and 5 p.m. through Feb. 5.

There are multiple dragons in Bellagio’s Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. “Our dragons represent all of the elements: water, fire, wood, earth and metal,” said Andres Garcia, executive director of Horticulture at Bellagio. “Each dragon has more then 20,000 hand-painted scales and is able to move its tails and arms, and blow steam.”

Amidst a zigzag bridge, a gazebo and a 21,000-gallon pond stocked with more than 200 koi fish, visitors will find a giant water-themed centerpiece with two 25-foot, blue dragons that regularly blow steam from their nostrils, two 15-foot-long green and gold animated dragons that lunge towards the dragons in the centerpiece and two brown and red animated dragons surrounded by oversized silk red Chinese lanterns and gold-leafed I-Ching coins, a traditional Chinese symbol for money.

Bellagio’s Chinese New Year garden and daily performances featuring authentic Chinese instruments continue through March 3.

Feng Li / Getty Images

Millions around the world celebrate the Lunar New Year, which begins on Jan. 23., and welcomes the year of the dragon.

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