For one evening each year, it is possible to believe that stuffing money into a lion’s maw and eating long life noodles in a restaurant named Grand Harmony will guarantee health and happiness. Perfectly understandable, then, that more than 300 people braved winter’s bite on Feb. 27 to converge on the Chinatown institution for the annual Lunar New Year celebration, which included a 10-course dinner. For a quarter century, Marian Thom, the co-chair of the UFT’s Asian-American Heritage Committee, has planned and hosted this party. For a quarter century, the faithful, first-timers and union leaders have come together over dinner to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
This is the Year of the Sheep, which Thom explains thusly: “It will be a good year. Well, OK, there are no bad years. And if there are, the lion dance takes away all the evil spirits and brings good luck. Feed the lion lots of green stuff. He likes the green stuff.” No one can resist feeding the beast because under the elaborate costumes are exuberant, dancing children. This year, the performers came compliments of PS 130. “I just love the Lion Dance,” says Elizabeth Espert, who teaches 5th grade at PS 191 in Manhattan. “The UFT is all about children. No one can be sad during the Lion Dance!” Every dollar fed to the lion — and the proceeds from 65 raffle items — goes to several Asian-American charities. What’s priceless, says Espert, who is Haitian-American, is the “cultural experience and inclusiveness” of the Lunar New Year party. “It’s my second year attending. I’m so grateful the UFT is doing this event. I’ll be there next year!”