In terms of sheer physical size, Boston is not really that big of a city. Its well-known neighborhoods, in actuality, span a few blocks in any given direction. I’m not sure what my friend Julia and I were expecting on the last day of the Chinese New Year celebrations in Boston’s Chinatown. A big, gaudy Western-styled parade? Probably. It’s not what we got, though.
Instead, local pockets of young performers playing instruments or donning elaborate dragon costumes march from business to business, manipulating their dragon heads and body to weave and dance. They don’t leave until they collect red envelopes of, presumably, money. Oranges and cabbage, foods considered to be good luck, are perilously tossed into the air with little concern for where they may land. Red chains of fireworks are laid out on the sidewalk, sometimes right at the dragons’ very human feet, and when they go off, loudly and in quick succession, they sound like artillery fire – Bangbangbang! – filling the air with acrid smoke.
I’m a little sad. The Year of the Rat, my year, is ending, and it wasn’t all that great of a year. It wasn’t a colossally bad year, but nothing spectacular happened, certainly nothing that would live up to my expectations. But then, maybe for something as inconspicuous and easily looked over as the rat, that is as it should be.
My nephew will be born in the Year of the Dragon. I want him to have a mighty personality and be larger than life itself. I want him to roar and breathe fire.
The restaurants and bakeries here, most no bigger than a hole in the wall, are jam-packed with people. I imagine the days of these celebrations are like Black Friday for these small businesses, these days are when the year’s greatest windfall happens. Julia is patient enough to brave the crowds and purchase a sesame ball, and while I’d kill to score a taro bun for a less than a dollar, I don’t have the tolerance to wedge myself into one these narrow crevices and compete with people who have no concept of politely forming lines.
After an hour or so, we grow tired of the repetitiveness of the processions and leave Chinatown. With but a few minutes’ walk along the painfully-wrought Rose Kennedy Greenway, we are in the Italian-infused North End with its quaint storefronts and numerous stereotypically-named Italian restaurants. Glimpses of the blue harbor and its ships can be caught between brick buildings, which soothe something inside of me.
Still craving sweets, we wait in the long but swiftly moving line at Mike’s Pastries, relieved that there is an orderly line in the first place. We buy black coffees and an oversized peanut butter cannoli each. We really should have split one, but I proceed to eat the entirety of mine anyway and feel a little sick afterwards. I make the requisite vow to never participate in such epic gluttony again, which predictably lasts as long as the next encounter with something that is peanut butter and chocolate, my personal kryptonite.