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Celebrations

Celebrations

One of the many people dressed in colorful costumes for the 2001 West Indian-American Day Carnival in Brooklyn.

Immigrant groups have used celebrations to express their ethnicity, nationality or regional identities.  These gatherings do not simply copy rituals from the home country, but are newly constructed or reconstructed festivals. For example, Italians developed the Columbus Day Parade to foster a sense of ethnic unity although none existed in the old country, which was sharply divided by region and class.  In Ireland, Saint Patrick's Day was a Catholic feast day celebrated in Ireland on March 17th, when prohibitions against eating meat were lifted during Lent.  In the United States, it became the day of a grand parade that expressed Irish pride in the face of persecution by the nation's Protestant majority.



More recently, other groups have organized large celebrations that did not exist in their homelands.  The West Indian-American Day Carnival has roots that go back to the days of slavery. Like Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Carnival in the Caribbean was a celebration before Lent began, which incorporated African music and dance traditions.   Today, the Carnival on the streets of Brooklyn has become a mass parade on Eastern Parkway on Labor Day, highlighting the costumes, music and culture of immigrants from the Caribbean. 
Celebrations

Lion dancers perform during Chinese New Year festivities on Mott Street in New York's Chinatown, Friday, Feb. 7, 1997. Celebrants ushered in 4695, the year of the Ox on the lunar calendar.


Celebrations

Dominican-Americans wave flags during the Dominican Day Parade in the Bronx on July 14, 2002.

Similar patterns have emerged among other national and ethnic groups.  Celebration of the Lunar New Year in cities with large Chinese or other east Asian immigrants have become a means of expressing ethnic and cultural identity.  The changing nature of traditional celebrations and the development of new ones show how dynamic cultures are in meeting the needs of newcomers in a new nation.