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Hundreds of Long Islanders celebrate Chinese New Year

Caleigh Liu, 9, of Jericho, center, is flanked

Caleigh Liu, 9, of Jericho, center, is flanked by Amanda Li, 7, left, of Roslyn and Sophia Xia, 9, right, of Jericho at a celebration for the Lunar New Year, with this year being the Year of the Rooster, on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. Credit: Johnny Milano

Hundreds of Long Islanders kicked off the Chinese New Year in grand style Saturday in a celebration at Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park in Oyster Bay.

Hosted by the Oyster Bay-based educational nonprofit Planting Fields Foundation, people from around Long Island spent the day having fun with friends and family and learning about Chinese traditions through dancing and martial arts, children’s games, and Chinese arts and crafts booths.

For Lan Hu, 62, of Dix Hills, and her friends Nancy Wu, of Syosset, and Angela Liang, a Dix Hills resident in her 50s, it was the second year for the trio to perform at the festival.

The three friends were taking in the sights of lush plants in a greenhouse on the property in a moment of relaxation before going onstage as part of the Yi Yuan Dance Group to perform a festive Chinese dance.

Hu, who had been practicing the dance three times a week, said the festival connected everyone. Even the dancing, which she said kept her healthy, had a purpose.

“The dancing is not just for fun, it helps to develop culture, and to share culture,” she said.

For Lisa Zhang, 50, of Searingtown, the new year festival marked “a good start, a new chance for happiness and health.”

Liang, who wore a traditional Chinese red and black dress, said the color red has a special meaning. “In Chinese, red means good luck for the start of the new year,” she said.

For Liang, who happily hugged other friends she met at the event, the festival was a way to do a lot of things at once. “You can make a new friend, you can celebrate and have fun, and it’s great for the children because they can learn more about Chinese culture,” she said.

Learning about Chinese culture was one of the things Britt Comess, 45, of Nassau County, and her daughter Stella Comess, 10, were enjoying about the day. The pair were played a game in which adults and children unraveled riddles to win prizes.

“She really loves riddles,” Comess said of her daughter.

“It feels like once you keep going, there’s an answer,” Stella said as she showed a small toy prize she had won.

While the game was her favorite part of the day, Stella said she thought it was fun to learn about Chinese culture, especially since some of her classmates were Chinese.

“Today was awesome,” said Britt Comess. “And it’s important for children to learn about another culture, especially in today’s world.”

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