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Calendar of Ethnic Festivals

CELEBRATIONS • May

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Buddha’s Birthday Parade
Manhattan
Early-mid May (Held on Buddha’s birthday in accordance to the lunar calendar), 5 pm
Union Square Park

A ceremony of Buddhist chanting and singing precedes the parade with a “dharma talk,” the Buddhist equivalent of a sermon. The parade, which has lost some of its international flavor in the past two years, attracts mainly Korean monks and believers, though the organizers try to appeal to a more diverse body of participants. In Korea, Buddha’s birthday is a national holiday. Traditional Korean dancing and singing are performed at the event.

Please confirm parade with the Korean Buddhist Association in New York: 718-463-1057

last update: 6/2004


Cuban Day Parade
Manhattan
1st Sunday in May, noon
Sixth Avenue, from 44th Street to Central Park

Now a mainstay of Cuban-American cultural expression in New York, this parade features 3,000 members of community organizations marching to the beat of Cuban music, with high school marching bands and corporate floats interspersed among the Cuban groups. Nearly half a million people attend this event. In the words of one organizer, the parade is in part “a way of thanking this country for opening its arms to the Cubans,”—a sentiment that is echoed in the selection of a Cuban who has succeeded in America to serve as Grand Marshall.

For more information: Nick Lugo Travel, 212-348-8270, www.Hispmag.com

last update: 9/2003


Ukrainian Easter Festival
Manhattan
St. Georges Church
30 E. 7th St.
Full weekend usually the third weekend in May.
6:00pm – 10:00pm Friday evening, 12:00pm-10:pm Saturday, 12:00pm – 6:00pm Sunday.
Seventh Street, between Second and Third Avenues

New York is home to the largest Ukrainian community outside the Ukraine, and since 1977 this festival has showcased its heritage. The parish of St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church, its school, and Ukrainian organizations and businesses all take part, providing traditional foods (favorites like potato dumplings and stuffed cabbage), crafts, and performances. A giant wooden Easter egg, the ancient symbol of life, adorns the stage where Ukrainian orchestras, operatic choruses, and professional dance troupes perform folk dances such as the Hopak. Children in folk costumes perform the “hahilky” Easter dance on Easter, during which they walk across a bridge formed by the outstretched arms of the adults.

For more information: 212-674-1615, Ukrainian website: www.brama.com/stgeorge

last update: 9/2003


Norwegian American 17th of May Parade
Brooklyn
Sunday closest to May 17th, 1 p.m.
Bay Ridge, Fifth Avenue, from 95th to 67th Streets

Each year Brooklyn’s large Norwegian-American community celebrates its heritage and an independent Norway. Civic groups, sporting clubs, fraternal organizations, and churches provide floats, bands, and marchers. Participants in regional traditional dress are joined by Lief Erikson in full Viking dress, and together they make their way to Lief Erikson Park for more festivities. Surrounded by Norwegian flags, thousands gather to greet and speak in their native tongue and enjoy a program of Norwegian bands and singers. The conclusion is the annual crowning of Miss Norway.

For more information: Evald Olson, publicity chair: 718-745-6653

last update: 9/2003


Ninth Avenue International Food Festival
Manhattan
Weekend after Mother’s Day or third Sunday in May, 11 am – 7 pm daily
Ninth Avenue, from 37th – 57th Streets

More than 1 million people visit this two-day festival each year in this midtown section of Ninth Avenue, which is renowned for its eclectic mix of ethnic groceries, markets, and restaurants. For more than 25 years it has celebrated its unique character with a festival of international foods. Local merchants bring their wares to the street where they are joined by vendors from around the city, and visitors can find “any kind of food you can think of.”

For more information: http://www.hellskitchennyc.com/html/9thavefest.htm, Ninth Avenue Association, 212/581-7029

last update: 9/2003


Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade
Manhattan
Third Sunday in May, 1:00-3:00, Fifth Avenue from 44th to 69th Streets

Organizations from throughout the city pay homage to Martin Luther King, Jr. with all the elements of the quintessential American parade. Marching and military bands, costumed riders of thematic floats, police and fire organizations, politicians, Boy and Girl Scouts, and veterans from World War I to the Persian Gulf War all parade down America’s preeminent parade route. A mix of ethnic groups complements the largely African-American contingents, for a strong show of unity around one of the country’s greatest heroes.

For more information: http://www.home.earthlink.net/~natlvets, 369th Armory, 212-281-3308

last update: 9/2003


Ethnic Festival of El Barrio
Manhattan
Third Saturday in May, 10:00am – 7:00pm
El Sitio Fleiz Community Garden, 104th Street Between 2nd & 3rd Avenues, East Harlem

In a celebration of the cultural diversity of East Harlem, this event features local and international artists representing the cultural roots of the neighborhood. Musicians from Latin America, Spain, and Mexico share the stage with local groups who play jazz, blues, salsa, and mariachi music. Both traditional crafts and contemporary arts are on exhibit, and children’s activities are offered throughout the day. Community residents of all ages gather in the garden and the streets to celebrate the rich array of cultures present in their East Harlem neighborhood.

For more information: Union Settlement Association, www.Unionsettlement.org, 212-828-6000

last update: 9/2003

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BayFest/Blessing of the Fleet
Brooklyn
First Sunday after Mother’s Day, noon – 6:00 pm
Sheepshead Bay, Emmons Avenue & East 27th Street

Begun in 1992 with an attendance of 50 people, this free, non-profit-sponsored event, which prohibits vendors, has since blossomed to an attendance of nearly 100,000. Located on the waterfront and adjacent to the 10 fishing piers and main streets, this event captures the sights and sounds of a vibrant working fishing village. Entertainment includes top musical acts from live traditional sea chantey singing and pop music to commercial hard hat diving and sailing demonstrations, workshops by the New York Aquarium and Brooklyn Children’s Museum, clown acts, face painting, magic and giveaways, arts and crafts and a spectacular NYC fireboat display. The day ends with a procession a blessing of a fleet of boats with free boat rides.

For more information: Bay Improvement Group, http://members.aol.com/bayimpgrp, 718-646-9206, 212-750-5560

last update: 9/2003


Turkish-American Day Parade
Manhattan
Third Saturday in May, 12:30pm
Madison Avenue, from 56th to 47th Streets

Featuring a replica of one of the world’s earliest military bands—the Ottoman Empire’s Gannisery Army Band—this parade elaborately promotes Turkish customs and contemporary concerns. Colorful floats, costumes, and banners display regional folkarts, while leaflets and opening-ceremony speeches speak to social issues. The red & white Turkish flag abounds, but all the colors of nature can be seen in this parade, likened to a vibrant kilim.

Begun in the 1970s as a protest against international terrorism, this event has become the social and cultural gathering for Turkish-Americans in the New York area. It ends with a rally and outdoor performances by Turkish artists at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, culminating a full week of conferences, concerts, and cultural programming for the Turkish-American community.

For more information: Federation of Turkish-American Associations, 212/682-7688.

last update: 5/2004


Salute to Israel Parade
Manhattan
Sunday near the end of May or early June, 11:00am-5:00pm
Fifth Avenue, from 57th to 79th Streets

This single largest gathering in the world to celebrate Israel independence draws over one million spectators. From its origination in 1964, the Parade has been a public affirmation of solidarity with and support of Israel, as well as an expression of unity within the American Jewish community, transcending religious and political affiliations. The Parade features 75,000 costumed marchers representing public and private schools, groups from Jewish organizations and community centers, high school marching bands and professionally designed floats sponsored by private companies and Jewish organizations. Each year, a specific theme is selected and developed into a series of Israel-related topics. With colorful banners, costumes, and props, 75,000 marchers from schools, synagogues, organizations, and community centers come together in a spectacular showing of unity and pageantry.

For more information:
Salute to Israel Day Parade, www.salutetoisrael.com

last update: 9/2003


Rites of Spring: Procession to Save Our Gardens
Manhattan
Approximately the third weekend in May 10am- 6pm
Lower East Side, begins at Forsyth between Broome and Delancey

This celebration of the urban gardens and history of the Lower East Side weaves a mythic play into 35 visits to community gardens. At each stop, a ritual exchange between the Earth goddess Gaia and the gardeners takes place: to the music of conch shells blowing, flowers are presented to the goddess, and the garden is marked on a ceremonial map in protest of the exclusion of the gardens on official city maps. The history of the struggle of urban gardeners is artfully presented, and tribal drums, New Orleans jazz, Samba, and Dominican bands play.

For more information:
http://users.rcn.com/earthcel/spring.html, earthcel@interport.net, 212-777-7969

last update: 9/2003


Czech & Slovak Festival
Queens
Sunday and Monday of Memorial Day weekend, noon-6 p.m.
Astoria, Bohemian Hall & Park, 29-19 24th Avenue

The “old country” is celebrated here in a setting of old-world charm. Bohemian Hall houses one of the last authentic biergartens in the city, and has been a social and cultural center since its establishment in 1910. Around 800 people gather in the whitewashed courtyard to eat roast pork, duckling, goulash and dumplings, drink pilsner beer, and dance waltzes and polkas among the flags, banners, and copious trees. A 25-piece brass band plays dance music throughout the day, and there is usually a traditional gymnastics performance by the D.A. Sokol, which resides in the Hall. Additionally, musicians and dance troupes portray traditional and regional folklore. A nominal admission fee is charged.

For more information: Bohemian Hall, www.Bohemianhall.com, 718-274-4925.

last update: 9/2003


The Feast of Corpus Christi
Bronx
Sunday at end of May or early June (pending Catholic religious calendar)
Our Lady of Angels Church
2860 Webb Avenue, Bronx

For Catholics, this day represents the transformation of bread into the body of Christ reminding Catholics that although risen from the dead, that Christ is still with them. Traditionally on this day a procession of the consecrated priest’s host carried aloft, visible through the glass bull’s eye of a monstrance. Four acolytes carried a canopy over the priest in the procession, and before him little girls in white dresses walked backward facing him, strewing rose petals on the ground for the priest to walk on. This practice and festival continues today in a simpler form in many catholic churches. Anyone can participate in or observe the one at Our Lady of Angels Church in which the procession meanders through the neighborhood, blessing those around as the “body of Christ” is held up in reverence.

For more information contact: Our Lady of Angels Church, 718-548-3005

last update: 9/2003

 

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