- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2002

The Year of the Horse began yesterday in Chinatown with a bang-bang-bang of firecrackers, lion dances, dragons, shivering majorettes, a 7-year-old bride, a giant stuffed tiger, panda and lion but not a horse in sight.
The horse is symbolic of resourcefulness and self-confidence, an indication of prosperity, Ambassador C.J. Chen of the Republic of China said during a program at the parade, which ended under the decorative bridge over H Street and Seventh Street NW.
Mr. Chen said he thought the new Chinese lunar year, 4700, would be a good one, and would demonstrate the great American spirit that responded to the September 11 terrorist atacks.
The program was attended by Mayor Anthony A. Williams, half of the D.C. City Council and thousands of others who began arriving about noon. The streets were jammed to the point where the crowd spilled onto the roadway and had to be repeatedly enjoined by police to return to the sidewalks.
"We've been coming for 10 to 15 years," said Bill Rhodes, 40, of Aspen Hill, with wife Kirsten, daughter Hanna, 10, and son Carl, 6.
"We like the fireworks," Mr. Rhodes said, pointing to a crane that later would lower a four-story string of firecrackers for Mr. Williams to ignite and to set a stage for the dancing dragons and lions.
The explosions that traditionally start off a Chinese new year celebration were indeed exciting, especially for the children. Street vendors were selling $1 boxes of poppers, half-inch plastic bags that popped when thrown to the cement or pressed under a shoe.
That's what Andrew Moy, 15, a Falls Church High School sophomore, was doing with his brothers, Michael, 10, and Christopher, 8.
Andrew lined up three rows of poppers, each row about 2 feet long. He and his brothers took turns, smiling with satisfaction as they stomped each popper.
Then the parade began.
First came a dozen Chinese young ladies, wearing long, oriental-style dresses of green, blue, gold and pink.
Next came a snakelike dragon, its spine rippling up and down thanks to the young men under its bright, sparkling hide. Later would come other dragons, some with fuzzy heads, that danced before the city. Also watching were Chinese and Taiwanese officials, guests of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association that sponsored the annual parade.
Attending the dragons and lions were solemn-looking young men and women, banging constantly and rhythmically on big drums and cymbals.
Coco Shih, 7, of Vienna elegantly dressed and with a tiara on her head, sat in a brightly decorated chair on two parallel poles that were carried on the shoulders of four young men. She was portraying a new year's bride as a part of the celebration.
Yes, it was only a ritual, said her father, Tony Cheng Ping Shih, an employee at the Chinese Embassy. But marriage is more important than wealth, he said.
Almost everyone was dressed warmly, wearing pants and long-sleeved shirts, sweaters and jackets. Before the parade began, many of the young women covered their faces with woolen scarves to ward off a wind chill that dropped below freezing.
Winds gusted up to 28 miles per hour and twice broke the ties that held a loop of hundreds of red, white and blue balloons over H Street. Spectators, perhaps happy to get some warming exercise, chased after the broken chain ends and helped reconnect them.


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