Year of the Dog bounds in with lions, lights, and spectacle in Chinatown

Philadelphia's Chinatown community rang in the Year of the Dog Thursday night with traditional lion dances and firecrackers.

More than a hundred people gathered in Chinatown Thursday for fireworks, drumming, and lion dances to ring in the Lunar New Year. College students, friends and families filled the blocks surrounding 10th and Race streets amid downpours and unseasonably warm weather to welcome the Year of the Dog.

The celebrations began well before midnight with Chinese-American teenagers setting off firecrackers along 10th Street, to the delight and surprise of those who gathered to join in the celebrations.

Dan Fogarty and his wife, Trish, along with family friend Angel Rodriguez, made their way to the celebrations after missing the Philly Suns’ lion dance at the International House’s Chinese New Year celebrations earlier in the night.

The rain didn’t bother them. “It’s good luck. It rained on our wedding, and that’s going well, so maybe it’ll be a good year,” Fogarty said from beneath his umbrella.

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The New Year’s celebrations and dances have been going on in Chinatown “since at least the ’70s” said Sidney Lee, 41, a Chinatown native. “It’s a way for us to pay our respects to our elders in the community … each of the lion dances takes place in front of the different community associations on Race Street.”

The elders came out and fed the lions lettuce and play money to bless the participants with a bountiful year ahead. With each dance, a stream of firecrackers two stories high was set off as the lions cavorted.

“You go all in, it doesn’t matter about the lion costume. They’re authentic,” Lee said as he watched his brother’s club, the Suns, perform their dances.

The celebrations continue throughout the weekend with a Lion Dance Parade Sunday at 11 a.m., starting at 10th and Spring streets.

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