In a recent blog post I suggested that you visit one of the various Chinese New Year parades this February. Chinese New Year was last Thursday and, following my own advice, I took to the streets of Paris with thousands of others to join the celebrations. The biggest of the parades is at Place d’Italie, an area with a large Chinese population, that is home to Asian food markets and more Asian restaurants than anyone could ever desire. Given the presence of Chinese culture in this area throughout the year, I was sure that this area would be alive for the New Year festivities and was not disappointed.
Crowds fill the banner-lined Avenue d’Italie
During the course of the afternoon, a stream of flag bearers in traditional dress, dancing dragons, musicians and floats moved through the streets to a soundtrack of fire crackers and flutes. As with any parade, the view for the crowd was limited; many a photographer could be seen climbing higher for a better vantage point (post vans, lamp posts, benches and public toilets all took on new roles for the day) and the best view was undoubtedly that enjoyed by those on the balconies above the streets. Nevertheless the atmosphere was truly spectacular and with the blue skies and the delicious smells of Asian cuisine it was easy to forget the cold Parisian winter and spend the afternoon in a different world entirely.
One of many beautifully crafted Chinese Dragons
Standing in the crowds at the parade, I was reminded of another time in recent weeks that I have been amongst thousands in the streets of Paris; the protest on Sunday 11th January after the terrible events of the week before. Here we were rallying in the name of freedom of expression and for a Paris in which different cultures can exist side by side. While I am aware that the Chinese culture was not one that was affected by what happened, I could not help but appreciate the sheer volume of people who came to celebrate an occasion that is not in the western calendar and the bold brilliance of the celebration itself. It served, for me, as a testimony to the many different faces of Paris, the many cultures who share the city and their ability, and willingness, to do so.
And so with much color and noise, Paris reminds us once
more that it is capable of far more than romantic bistros and
… or Happy New Year!
And for those wandering exactly what the Year of the Goat entails: