Year of the Dragon : Colorful, Noisy Chinese Holiday Has Something for Everybody

Times Staff Writer

As firecrackers exploded and marching bands stepped off, Chinese lunar year 4686, the Year of the Dragon, was kicked off with a multiethnic flourish on the streets of Los Angeles’ Chinatown on Saturday.

Hundreds of parade participants in colorful costumes marched and danced their way along Spring and Hill streets and Broadway.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Feb. 15, 1988 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday February 15, 1988 Home Edition Part 1 Page 2 Column 5 Metro Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
A story in Sunday’s Times incorrectly identified a Los Angeles city councilman who rode in a classic car in the Chinese New Year parade Saturday. The councilman should have been identified as John Ferraro.

Amid the traditional sounds of clanging cymbals, thundering gongs and gentle string notes were the not-so-traditional sounds of Scottish bagpipes and Aztec drum rhythms.

“It’s just a cultural shock,” said Dan Olson, an Escondido resident attending the parade for the first time. “It’s really interesting to see the different nationalities represented here. It’s a real mixture of cultures.”


Special for Children

There were the usual paper floats, waving beauty queens and civic leaders smiling from convertibles. But the parade seemed to belong to the children--those who watched, transfixed from the sidelines and those in elaborate costumes of warriors and fierce animals like lions and, of course, dragons.

A 120-foot, five-clawed, almost-iridescent dragon weaved its way through the streets, supported by 22 martial arts aficionados. There were several smaller dragons--in almost every color of the rainbow--carried by adults and children.

Nine-year-old Jonathon Valdepena laughed and hid his face when a red and black dragon peered at him with its gilded face.

“Look at him (the dragon) dance,” a woman yelled in Spanish from the sidewalk.

But standing quietly on the sidelines were 30 protesters from the First Testament Church to whom the dragon was a Satanist symbol.

“Many people are being deceived,” said Jeannie Lin. “With the year of the dragon, Satan is trying to snatch the glory of God. To them it might just be a celebration, a parade, but actually the dragon is of Satan.”

Few Pay Attention


But few people paid much attention to the placards or the leaflets the protesters distributed, most were simply enjoying the sunny afternoon.

“I’ve lived here four years but I haven’t ever come before,” said Sumei Chew, who emigrated from Singapore. “I thought it was time.”

Her companion, Mike Urkowitz, said he came to see the classic cars.

“The fact that I could see a genuine Edsel made it all worthwhile,” he said.


In the classic cars were Mayor Tom Bradley, City Council members Michael Woo, Richard Alatorre, Gloria Molina and Richard Ferraro. Also riding in classic convertible Thunderbirds of every hue were sports, television and radio personalities.

And alongside the varied ethnic sights and sounds were distinctively American touches like popcorn, balloons and cotton candy. Children of all nationalities seemed drawn to those.

From noon to about dusk on Saturday and today, exhibits of martial arts, traditional entertainment and crafts were to be featured on stages at Mandarin Plaza and Central Plaza on Hill Street. Miss Los Angeles Chinatown, dressed in a glittering gown, also was to be at both plazas to shake hands and pose for photographs. The celebration includes the Chinatown Community Carnival, at Castellar Elementary on the corner of College and North Hill streets, a fair complete with amusement rides, game booths and food vendors, scheduled to run through today.

On Tuesday night, families will celebrate New Year’s Eve with ritual celebrations, many of which include burning incense and placing flowers and food as offerings before the portraits of ancestors to honor their deceased relatives.


Legend has it that an ancient Chinese emperor invited all the world’s animals to a feast, but only 12 appeared, so he established a year to honor each one.