A Master's Blessing for Chinese New Year

Today is Chinese New Year’s and our Sheepshead Bay Chinatown is open and ready to celebrate in our local, low-key way.

I called numerous Asian cultural organizations and found that almost everyone who might be in-the-know was already on holiday. That’s when I realized that Sheepshead Bay prefers to welcome the Year of the Ox (or Buffalo, if you’re Vietnamese) in a quieter, more reflective fashion compared to our Manhattan, Bay Ridge, and Flushing Asian towns. Most of the information online mentions three of New York City’s largest Chinatowns, but forgets the fourth — Avenue U.

Not knowing where else to turn for information about Chinese New Year events, I went where I usually go when I don’t know what to eat — the ever-present, always-open, 9-1-1 of food — a Chinese restaurant. In this case, it was East Ocean Seafood Restaurant. Surely, they would have some information about what’s going on for the New Year.

Read more about Sheepshead Bay’s Chinese New Year after the jump.

At East Ocean, the friendly counter person, Tim, was finding it difficult to describe exactly how they will be honoring the auspicious occasion.

There weren’t any special decorations screaming “Happy New Year”, so there were no pictures to take. But, if the festive, orange-colored menu posted on every wall was all I had to post — post it, I would. When I asked for a copy, he found a clean one, handed it to me, and said, “But, it’s in Chinese.”

As he was paying for his takeout, the only customer in the place told me, “There’s no one here, because they are at home for the holiday. We, Chinese, are always working, so one day a year is very important to us.”

It wasn’t until I made comparisons to the Manhattan Chinatown, with its parades, dragons, and visitors, that Tim pulled out the golden-colored ticket. It turned out to be a kind of calling card from the master — Master Norman Chin, Martial Arts expert.

This calling card is so special that they could not give me the one and only copy, so I jotted down the phone number and said I would call him. Just before he left, the one and only customer told me to be careful, because the Kung Fu Master is a formidable person — physically and spiritually.

Although it was the eve of the most important day of the year, the man known as the Southern Praying Mantis took some time to return my call. He explained patiently that Asians tend to celebrate their holiday at home with family and friends, requesting blessings for the coming year.

The ushering in of the new year is something that is treated with reverence, so when he visits all of the Asian-owned restaurants and businesses from Coney Island Avenue to Ocean Avenue next Saturday, it will be to ward away evil spirits and wish great success for 2009. The calling card is how the business tells him that he and his Kung Fu & Lion Dance entourage is welcome. He leaves the calling card at their business sometime before the holiday, and when he arrives to bestow his blessing, they give it back to him. Now, I understand why Tim wouldn’t let go of it.

This Saturday, not only will we get a chance to formally welcome in the New Year Asian-style, you just might meet the master — Kung Fu master, that is.

Master Norman Chin visits Avenue U Chinatown
Saturday, January 31, 2009

Expected at 10:30 a.m. at
East Ocean Seafood Restaurant
1818 Ave U
Brooklyn, NY 11229