Calendar of Ethnic Festivals

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Phagwah Procession and Festival
Queens, March, noon-5pm, Liberty Avenue,
134th Street to Smokey Park, Richmond Hill

This lunar festival was brought to New York form northern India by way of the Caribbean, becoming a celebration of all three places and one of the most important for Indo-Guyanese immigrants. In India, Phagwah is a time of thanksgiving for wheat and rice crops, which were offered as sacraments to the gods on “holka,” the special fires of Phagwah. It also signals the beginning of spring and marks the victory of good over evil.

The Caribbean-Hindu enclave in Brooklyn and southern Queens, especially Richmond Hill, Jamaica and South Ozone Park, is one of the largest such communities in the country. It includes Indians who migrated over generations to the West Indies, mostly Guyana, and then to the U.S.

During the festival, the participants dress in whites, dousing one another with talcum powder and dyes in scarlet, yellows and blues. Some dip wet hands into small plastic bags of colorful power dye and swath colorful pastes onto each other’s faces. Over 50,000 people took part in the 2003 colorful parade, watching floats, participating in cultural variety shows, singing kirtans (devotional songs), dancing and acting in classical dances and dance dramas, and splashing colors at each other.

The procession begins on Liberty Avenue, passes through residential neighborhoods painted in Caribbean pastels with ornamental elephants moving on to Smokey Oval Park.

For More Information:, 718-847-6070

last update: 9/2003

St. Patrick’s Day Parade
March 17
Fifth Avenue, from 44th to 86th Streets

More than one million spectators line Fifth Avenue for one of the oldest and largest parades in the world. Following a green stripe painted the length of the parade route, the 160,000 marchers, including high school marching and bag pipe bands, are surrounded by Irish flags and a sea of green clothing, shamrocks, and “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” signs. The 32 counties of Ireland are represented, as are all the Emerald Societies of New York City agencies and Irish organizations from all over New York (with the exception of gay and lesbian Irish groups who lost a legal battle to march openly in the parade). This event is the “glue of the Irish community,” says one member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, which has organized the parade since 1838. The first official parade in New York was marched in 1766 by Irishmen in a military unit recruited to serve in the American colonies.

For more information:

last update: 9/2003

Greek Independence Day Parade
Closest Sunday to March 25, 1:30 p.m.
Fifth Avenue, from 59th to 79th Streets

After 400 years of rule by the Ottoman Empire, Greece declared its independence on March 25, 1821. This parade brings together more than 200 Greek American civic, religious and political organizations, representatives of the Greek Orthodox Church and American and Greek government officials. The dual celebration of March 25 is integrally connected with the Christian Feast of the Annunciation, commemorating the visit of the Archangel Gabriel to Virgin Mary “to announce” that she was chosen to be the Mother of God. The day officially begins at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity at 319 East 74th St. with a Divine Liturgy and Doxology celebrated the archbishop Demetrios, spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, and attended by Parade officials Grand Marshals, government officials and members of the Greek Presidential Guard, the EVZONES.

The New York celebration focuses on the ideals of democracy and freedom shared by both countries. Participants include representatives of many federations, schools and Greek Orthodox communities with floats celebrating independence, and colorful traditional costumes representing the cultural identities of the cities, islands, and towns of Greece.

For more information: Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, (718)-204-6500 Fax (718)204-8986

last update: 9/2003

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