Gong hey fat choy.
It’s the Cantonese expression of wishing someone great happiness and prosperity in the New Year. Master that phrase because you’re going to hear it quite often the next few weeks as the Year of the Rooster begins Jan. 28.
Long after the “ball” has dropped in Times Square and the champagne goes flat, denizens of Chinatown are been busy making preparations for another new year’s celebration that doesn’t fall on Dec. 31.
Based on the Lunar Calendar, Chinese New Year falls on a different date every year, usually around late January to mid-February. Although there is no Chinese tradition similar to singing “Auld Lang Syne,” there are always plenty of fireworks at midnight. Often incorrectly referred to as “dragons,” dancers actually come dressed as lions whose task is to chase away evil spirits as they shimmy around firecrackers.
The costumes don’t come cheap; the average price is upward of $900. Harry Leung, president of the nonprofit Philadelphia Suns, based in Chinatown, has spent close to $50,000 in performance gear alone. Regardless of cost, performing the lion dance during Chinese New Year holds special meaning to Leung.