(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)
Chinese Americans from around the region will gather today in Chinatown's Phillips Square to celebrate the Year of the Dragon, the luckiest year in the Chinese zodiac.
The Chinese New Year Parade will include the traditional lions dancing to ward off evil spirits and devouring heads of lettuce and oranges -- symbolizing health and wealth, respectively. For the first time, it will also include a Cultural Village where neighborhood residents and visitors can explore other aspects of Chinese tradition.
The Cultural Village is a gift to the community from East West Bank and will be hosted at its branch on Harrison Avenue, just south of the main stage. It will include live music and tables for dough sculpture, pinwheel making, calligraphy, painting, and a kiosk where visitors can have their picture taken with the head from a lion dance costume.
Tony Yee, president of the board of Chinatown Main Street, said the Cultural Village is a real asset to the celebration, which his organization co-hosts each year with the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association and the Chinatown Business Association.
"As board president of Chinatown Main Street, our goal is to bring more business into Chinatown, and we're very happy that Johnny Ip and the team from East West Bank is willing to host this cultural village event here in his establishment, as this will allow and attract more people to come in," Yee said.
"Our objective is to contribute back to the community where we belong," said Johnny Ip, senior vice president of East West Bank and director for the New England region. Ip hopes the Cultural Village will become an annual tradition in Boston and expand each year.
East West Bank was established four decades ago in Pasadena, Calif., as a small community bank and has grown to include 130 branches across the US and in China and Taiwan. With total assets of about $22 billion, it placed at No. 6 on Forbes' list of the 100 best banks in December 2011.
Ip said the bank tries to live up to its name by bridging east and west, for instance, introducing Chinese-American entrepreneurs to Chinese investors who can help their companies expand into international markets. It also works within the communities it serves to support traditional Chinese arts and culture and help introduce those to non-Chinese audiences.
"All in all, we are working with each community to promote China's culture, plus our own niche products," Ip said.
Debbie Ho, a Chinatown Main Street supporter who helped organize the Cultural Village, said the New Year is traditionally a time for families to feast and wish each other good fortune and good health.
"We want the New Year ... to be very festive here in Chinatown," Ho said. "It's so important because with the growing population of Chinese people ... you want the families to connect. You want this neighborhood to connect."
The Lion Dance Parade will begin at 11 a.m. today, and continue until about 5 p.m. The Cultural Village will open from noon to 4 p.m.
For more information about Chinatown Main Street visit http://www.chinatownmainstreet.org/ and their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/BOSCMS.
For more information on the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of New England, visit http://www.ccba-ne.org/.
For more information on East West Bank, visit http://www.eastwestbank.com.
(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)