By Jennifer 8. Lee | November 22, 2007
The most romantic day in Chinatown is not Valentine’s (because of cupids) or Christmas (because of the mistletoe), it is Thanksgiving. Why?
On the fourth Thursday in November, hundreds of white bridal gowns rustle in the streets of Chinatown.
More weddings take place in Chinatown on that one single day for one simple reason: itâ€™s the only day that the nationâ€™s Chinese restaurant workers can get consistently off.
To keep up with American demand for Chinese food, Chinese restaurant workers have to wait tables, deliver meals, wash dishes or stir woks some 364 days a year.
Thus 50,000 people, the majority of whom are Chinese restaurant workers, flood Chinatown every Thanksgiving as they are from six- or seven-day a week jobs. It is one of the rare opportunities to when they can coordinate with family and friends to celebrate. Banquet halls have to be booked more than a year in advance, compared to the one or two months that is standard for other times of the years.
Susan Sachs’ had a fun piece in The New York Times a few years back describing the frenzied wedding preparations. The pictures above and below are from Thanksgiving 2005 when I went into Chinatown and followed a bunch of wedding celebrations throughout the day.
On East Broadway, the Main Street for the American Fujianese community, yu see the rustling of brides in white dresses with glitter in their hair and dramatic fake eyelashes, daintily shuffling past the herb shops, doctorsâ€™ offices and the seafood markets which hawking live crabs and dead mussels and oysters. They wear jeans underneath since it is chilly in November. The weird thing is that when they are all dressed similarly, they actually look alike (horrible to say) and hard to tell the brides apart.
At the banquet halls at Jing Fong, I found five weddings going simultaneously (they are booked solid with multiple weddings for afternoon and dinners). And itâ€™s not like in American weddings where the speeches and performance is during the toasts and the intro, where they leave you alone in nice and quiet, with maybe some background music. Here, its a continuous entertaining cacophony throughout. Over sound systems. With hip hop-performing. midriff-bearing Chinese dancers or emcees which keep a running commentary.
Everyone gives money in red envelops. No bridal registries here. And the food was mostly all seafood. No General Tso’s chicken served here.
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