Happy New Year of the Dragon!

January 20, 2012

We may be several weeks into the new year, but the Chinese New Year is just about to begin.

2012 is the Year of the Dragon, which comes around only every 12 years and is considered the mightiest and the luckiest of the 12 signs.

The holiday is especially significant in one area of Chicago real estate, where the Chinatown neighborhood is celebrating its Centennial this year. Chinatown was established in 1912 in the Loop and 100 years later has a population of more than 27,000.

The Chinese New Year actually falls on January 23, but Chinatown is stretching the celebration and hosting its 2012 Lunar New Year Parade on Jan. 29. Step-off time is 1 p.m. at 24th St. and Wentworth Ave., though other activities start at 11:30 a.m.

For more information on the parade, visit chicagochinatown.org.

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The Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave., Chicago, which had been closed due to damage from a hailstorm last June, is officially reopening by ringing in the Chinese New Year on Sunday, Jan. 22 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

There will be a dragon-dancing procession through the Conservatory, followed by a reception, live music, a self-guided scavenger hunt highlighting plants that signify good fortune and an opportunity from 1-3 p.m. for children to plant some living luck to take home.

For more information, visit chicagoparkdistrict.com.

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There are other Chicago-area establishments that are celebrating the Chinese New Year all weekend long. Here are some of the highlights:

*Chinese-American Museum of Chicago: On Saturday, Jan. 21 at 2 p.m., there will be a lecture entitled, Welcome to Chinatown: The Gateway Arch and Nine Dragon Wall, presented by Ian Chin, Vice President and Senior Principal of Wiss Janney Elstner and Associates, Inc, Architects, Engineers and Materials Scientists. The event is free, but there is limited space so reservations are recommended. Call 312-949-1000 or email anita.luk@ccamuseum.org.

*Chinese New Year Arty Party Celebration: Color My World Children’s Art Studio and Arts in Bartlett are hosting this free celebration on Sunday, Jan. 22 at the Bartlett Center for the Arts, 118 W. Bartlett Rd., Bartlett, where families can create Chinese dancing parade dragons, listen to Chinese folktales and music, write Chinese calligraphy and and enjoy Chinese fortune cookies and green tea any time from 1 to 5 p.m.

*Big Bowl: The restaurant is offering symbolic food specials and surprise savings each day through Jan. 23, and are offering a complimentary cooking class on making dumplings in Chicago (6 E. Cedar St., 312-640-8888) and Lincolnshire (215 Parkway Dr., 847-808-8880). Call to reserve a spot. On Jan. 23, all guests born in the Year of the Dragon — 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976,1988, 2000 and 2012 — will get a complimentary lunch or dinner entree.

Because the Chinese believe that giving will lead to good luck, Big Bowl is donating up to $5,000 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation from the sales of the seasonal blood orange ginger ale. Oranges are significant during the new year because the color symbolizes gold while the word ‘orange’ in Chinese sounds like wealth.

Happy Chinese New Year!

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