The Chinese New Year has commenced, and I must admit that Paris is not a bad place to be during this celebration. There are many Chinese communities present, best known areas being perhaps the 11th and 13th arrondissement. A few weeks ago, when I was searching any possible upcoming events in Paris to commemorate the Chinese New Year, I was surprised to find several options. Within the past couple weeks I have attended parties and several parades.
But the parade that I attended on the 9th of February in the 13th arrondissement was by far the best. There are several parades hosted through the weeks of Chinese New Year in Paris. I attended another one by Hotel de Ville, and there is another near the Belleville and Marais area, but the largest parade takes place in the 13th arrondissement between Porte d’Ivry and Place d’Italie.
This area is of one of the more well-known Asian populations and communities within Paris, and it is also a great place to wander around an hour or so before the parade. You can grab a Vietnamese sandwich called bành mì or something else known as baozi which is kind of a pork-stuffed brioche at a popular place called Thien Hang.
Of course, arriving early to the parade is strongly advised. It becomes crowded very quickly. Perhaps my favorite sights of these large parades that I’ve attended is watching parents puts kids up on their shoulders and younger folk climb on top of phone booths, recycling receptacles, and even bus stop awnings and cars.
All in all, it was a gorgeous procession from beginning to end, teeming with color and lots of smiling faces. The parade serves as a happy showcase of their community with different students and members of performing routines of tai chi, karate, dance, etc. About halfway through the parade, however, I learned that this event has blossomed into a communal gathering beyond just the Chinese culture. There were other associations present, such as the Federation du Carnival Tropical de Paris et Île de France, who accented the procession with a samba beat and this awesome, awesome woman:
In the end, this parade perfectly encapsulates what I’ve grown to love the most about my experience so far in Paris. Frankly (although not surprisingly), Paris isn’t where you should go to endure a huge culture shock experience coming from the states. However, I would like to say that, if you are willing to spend just a little time looking for it, Paris is much more than just its typical and often clichéd paradigms. There’s more to venture along than just cobblestoned streets that embroider the cafés; there’s more to taste than macarons; there is much more to see than Montemartre, the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower.
This city is saturated with culture– and not only French culture. Paris, in my (perhaps narrow) opinion, must be one of the most international cities in the world. And if you ever venture through, I advise taking the effort in seeing how. Yes, go see the Eiffel tower and browse through “bo-bo” or bourgeous-boheme Le Marais, but if you love just meeting people from everywhere, then look up events like these and explore the Couchsurfing culture in Paris, which is by far one of the richest Couchsurfing environments out there in the world.
I swear, you could almost travel the world within this city.