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The Golden Dragon Parade in Los Angeles

Chinatown Hosts An Annual New Year's Celebration

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Where: Chinatown Central and West plazas, Downtown Los Angeles

When: Saturday afternoon within a week of Chinese New Year

Cost: Free

Chinese New Year in LA

There are over 1,799,000 Asian Americans living in Los Angeles (based on the 2000 census). Many of them celebrate the lunar New Year (as observed by the Chinese, along with the Vietnamese, among other Asian cultures).

Chinese New Year takes place on a different date each year, always during a new moon (the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar). The holiday celebrated on this special day is known as Spring Festival.

Each Chinese New Year is aligned with an animal or astrological sign (of which there are 12 in total). Years will also be assigned elements such as metal, fire and water. For example, 2012 was the year of the Water Dragon; 2013 is the year of the Water Snake.

The Golden Dragon Parade in a Nutshell

Apart from being a Chinese astrological sign, the dragon is very important in Chinese culture. Dragons are symbols of power and luck.

The Golden Dragon Parade is Southern California's annual Chinese New Year celebration, and has been for well over a century. The festive event draws over 80,000 people who follow the parade route.

Features of the parade include the appearance of celebrities and government officials, dragon and lion dancers and other performers, and local high school bands. Related events include a car show and a 5/10K run. And, typical of LA, there are often food trucks a plenty.

The Scene

The scene is colourful and lively with sidewalks, shops and restaurants full of people. Revelers throw party snappers. Firecrackers go off, and confetti wafts through the air. The LA Times has described the atmosphere saying: "Smoke curled from the gatekeeper dragons on North Broadway."

The smell of fried rice and egg rolls fills the air as food courts are set up in parking lots. In addition, the familiar aroma of barbecued food tempts passersby.

Elsewhere stages are set up where musical artists and dance troupes perform.

Bruce Lee and the Golden Dragon Parade

Although LA's Golden Dragon Parade dates back to the turn-of-the-century, it was arguably the 1970s that saw one of the event's highlights. That's when actor and legendary martial arts master Bruce Lee was the parade's Grand Marshal.

Other famous grand marshals of the era were David Carradine (of the TV show Kung Fu) and Hugh Hefner.

The 2013 Golden Dragon Parade

For the 114th Golden Dragon Parade, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was chosen to be grand marshal alongside LAPD Chief Charlie Beck. Councilman Ed Reyes, Sheriff Lee Baca and Bibiana Yung were selected as honorary grand marshals.

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