Chicagoans and Others Prepare for Chinese New Year

By Beixi (Bessie) Xu

Synga Huo, a “stay home mom” who lives in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood with her family, was wheeling several bags of groceries out of the Chinatown Market.

“I buy lots of New Year’s necessities, including sweet dumplings, beef and mutton for making traditional hotpot,” said Huo. “Although we live in foreign country, our family still wants to celebrate traditional Chinese New Year. That’s why I drive here to buy New Year’s stuff.”

Dental student Eric Wu drove with his parents from Milwaukee to Chicago in the early morning to shop in Chinatown for New Year items such as dumplings and bright red scrolls.

“Chicago Chinatown has the most abundant New Year products, and that’s why we choose here,” said Wu. “I am so excited that families can get together and enjoy family time. I can also receive lucky money from elder people.”

“Our inventory is sufficient during spring festival, especially for seafood, meat and dumplings which are popular in New Year,” said Rita Wu, a manager of the Chinatown Market. “This is the busiest time for us. The sales are expected to increase 30 percent compared with usual time.”

Chinatown restaurants and small retailers are preparing for their busiest days, which always draw customers from beyond Chicago.

“All the 200 seats in our restaurant are booked,” said John Zeng, manager of Peppercorn. “Last year we set fixed price for each table, which was $488. However, we provide special menus for each table this year, and we hope our sales rise 40 percent.”

Similarly, Tom Zhang, manager of Chatime, said the restaurant will adjust its hours to close at 2 a.m. He thinks this year’s parade will attract more customers than last year’s.

Chicago’s Chinatown will hold its Lunar New Year Parade on Sunday, Feb. 5, to celebrate the year of the rooster and the 105th anniversary of Chinatown.

The parade will feature 14 floats, 22 organizations marching, six marching bands, four lion teams and four dragon teams, according to the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.

“The Lunar New Year Parade is one of the biggest events in Chinatown. It draws thousands of people from all over Chicago to Chinatown, even when there was a snow storm last year,” said Linda Luk, program manager of the Chicago Chinatown Community Foundation. “This year we anticipate a pretty good crowd, especially with the milder weather, and we expect an estimated 3000 people to come.”

In order to get rid of misfortunes and welcome good luck, Chinese people decorate their front doors and windows with spring festival couplets and upside-down “Fu” characters that mean “welcome.”

“This year, both Chinese and foreigners buy red envelopes and Fu characters in our store,” said Wat Wang, owner of Sanhe retail store. “There are about 15 people buy New Year characters a day. Our holiday sales are better than last year.”

Photo at top: A Chinatown shop owner posts a Lunar New Year scroll. (Beixi Xu/MEDILL)