Belleville celebrates the Year of the Rabbit

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BELLEVILLE, NJ — In step with the town’s history, the Belleville Historical Society held a Lunar New Year celebration to welcome the Year of the Rabbit at the Belleville Public Library. 

The first Chinese community in this part of the United States was not in New York City, but in Belleville. Before there was a Chinatown in New York, following the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, 68 Chinese men and boys, former railroad workers, arrived in Belleville in 1870. The first Lunar New Year was celebrated in Belleville in January of 1871 and the first school for Chinese immigrants, the Belleville Chinese Sabbath School, was opened later that same year.

During the 1870s and 1880s, Chinese immigrants from throughout the region would travel to Belleville to celebrate the Lunar New Year — the only such celebration in this part of the country. During a period of intense discrimination elsewhere, Chinese immigrants found a welcoming home in Belleville.

Photos Courtesy of Michael Perrone