According to ancient Chinese legend, a vicious beast, Nian, would emerge from the earth at year’s end to hunt people and decimate livestock and crops. To drive the monster away, villagers would make loud noise and display red color through clothing and decoration.

Nian would not have stood a chance against the sounds of music, pounding of drums and roaring crowd that filled the air in Downtown Flushing on Saturday, when the area held its 27th annual Lunar New Year parade, a day before the holiday officially commenced.

The two-week holiday, which culminates in a Lantern Festival, emphasizes family togetherness, food and good luck for the year ahead. Of the two billion people who celebrate Lunar New Year worldwide, approximately 1.5 million of them reside in the Big Apple. A large swath of them on Saturday headed to Flushing, home to the city’s largest Chinese community.

Organized annually by the Flushing Chinese Business Association, this year’s celebration featured 52 groups and 24 eye-popping floats as area politicians, businesses and community groups marched through the streets. The parade began at the intersection of 37th Avenue and Union Street, headed south on Union Street, then west on Sanford Avenue and finally north on Main Street until 38th Avenue.

Sidewalks along the route were lined with spectators — many of them families — standing shoulder to shoulder as they watched performances of the traditional lion and dragon dances. Red and gold, each symbolizing good fortune, could be seen at every turn.

“This parade may be the most important event in this neighborhood,” said Antony Chang, who works with the FCBA and has volunteered at the parade since 2019. “For the Chinese, this time of year is like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve combined.”

Plush rabbit ears atop the heads of countless parade-goers in Flushing made it clear that the Year of the Rabbit was being ushered in. The fourth of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac cycle, the rabbit can represent longevity, grace, intellect and mercy, among other qualities.

For Michael Wang, executive director of the FCBA and the parade’s coordinator, the rabbit symbolizes “wisdom” and “mobility.”

Longtime parade attendee Toni believes the Year of the Rabbit will be characterized by world peace, health and prosperity.

“So hopefully less suffering [this year] in general,” she added.

Whatever the zodiac animal, Lunar New Year celebrations and get-togethers are often social, fun and at times, mouthwatering.

Benjamin Gladstone and Lia Lee, who have enjoyed the parade for five years, planned to have dinner, including a whole chicken and duck, with Lee’s family.

Toni said she would eat fish during her feast, as fish signify “abundance and having food throughout the year.”

“After the parade, and over the coming days, I will go to family reunions, visit friends and exchange red packets with money,” she added, referring to the holiday’s traditional gifting of red envelopes filled with cash, often to children.

Wang looked forward to beef stew and dumplings with his family.

Acknowledging the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes and sentiment in recent years, Chang and Wang said they believe events such as Saturday’s parade can help fight ignorance surrounding Chinese culture.

“Hate comes from a lack of understanding,” Chang said. “This parade is for the entire community – many non-Asians participate – and it provides an opportunity to get to know one another.”

“We want to show that we can be part of American and New York City culture, but also still carry on our rich culture, too,” Wang added. “This parade is a perfect example.”

Will future generations of Chinese Americans in Flushing continue the Lunar New Year tradition? Wang is optimistic, especially since 80 parade volunteers working with the FCBA this year were either high school or college students.

“We don’t force it upon them, but of course we want our younger generation to observe and carry on the culture of their ancestors,” he said.