The Mayans say It’s the End of Time, but for the Chinese, 2012 is the Year of the Dragon

BY MARIA MIRAKAJ BROWNSELL

The Lunar calendar marked January 23 as the beginning of the year of the Dragon. This could be good news; in the Chinese Zodiac dragon years are the luckiest of all.

Spirits were high as the Palisades Postal Store in West Nyack hosted an event on Sunday to celebrate the New Year and to unveil a stamp in its honor.

Back in 1988, Jean Chen, a member of the Georgia chapter of the Organization of Chinese American (OCA), reached out to the OCA board with an idea to get a U.S. commemorative stamp put out. Claudine Cheng, OCA National President, brought the idea to the Postmaster General Anthony Frank and the U.S. Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee in 1992.

With the support of all, the first stamp in the lunar series was released as the “Year of the Rooster.” In each year following the next animal in the series was released.

Now in the second series of these lunar calendar stamps, which began in 2008, is the stamp for the Year of the Dragon. The stamp depicts a very colorful dragon head and is a “forever stamp.” Before the unveiling, Diane Peterson, business development specialist for USPS explained the meaning behind the stamp and the significance of the Chinese New Year.

A good size crowd was gathered around the postal store, eagerly waiting for the excitement to begin.

“I love the post office. I’m a big supporter. I was born in the Year of the Dragon. I find Chinese culture exquisite. China is a big part of the world today,” said Nora Quinn of Westchester County.

“I’m interested in Asian culture. I’m from Bergen County where a large population is Asian. I would love to learn the languages. I’m surprised our schools don’t offer it as a language choice,” said John Hernandez.

Petersen, along with Virginia Ng, past president of the Organization of Chinese Americans New Jersey Chapter, Dr. Gary Guo, vice president of the Organization of Chinese Americans Westchester Hudson Valley Chapter, Albert Chin, president of the Chinese Cultural Center of New Jersey and Sunny Lee of the Sunny Mandarin Club, revealed the stamp to the audience.

With the stamp now exposed, Lee led her students in a Zodiac parade where each student represented a different animal. Once they were all lined up, they sang a song in Mandarin for the group.

“My daughter is learning Chinese from Sunny. She is a pig in the parade,” said Paul Stoltz of Stony Point.

“We’ve been practicing singing. I’m very excited,” added his daughter, Olivia.

Afterwards, a traditional Chinese Lion Dance was performed by the Chinese Cultural Center of New Jersey Youth Group under the instruction of their president, Albert Chin.

“We’ve been doing this for about 10 years. We have been a part of this celebration at the post office every year. This is to celebrate the lunar year with a new stamp,” explained Chin.

During the dance the dragons came up to whoever was holding a red envelope with money in it for the person to drop it into the mouth for good luck. Excited children and adults watched as the dragons danced closer to them, ready for the good that will be in store.