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Road Trip

Do the Chinatown Shuttle From D.C. to Philly

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Sunday, February 3, 2008

WHERE: Washington and Philadelphia.

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WHY: Year of the Rat, three cheers for the bus driver and write-your-own-fortune cookies.

HOW FAR: About 140 miles from start to finish.

"Gung hay fat choy" may sound like a spicy Sichuan entree, but it's not: The phrase is a Chinese Lunar New Year greeting that loosely translates to "congratulations" and "may you be prosperous." This week and next, the holiday wish will be heard throughout the Chinatowns of Washington and Philadelphia during the cities' Chinese New Year celebrations.

The two neighborhoods will ring in 4706 on the first day of the first lunar month on the Chinese calendar, which on the Western Gregorian calendar is Thursday. It is also the Year of Rat, but don't let that turn you off. According to Chinese astrology, the rat can bring wealth, success and order, and those born under this sign are said to be natural leaders. (Famous rats include George Washington, Peter the Great, Prince Charles, Doris Day and Donna Summer.)

Washington's New Year party starts Feb. 10, with lion and dragon dances, kung fu demonstrations and a five-story-high firecracker. Area festivities continue through Feb. 27.

In Philly's Chinatown, the main events are the traditional dragon parades, held on four days, with the first one on Wednesday. The processions feature colorful costumed dancers who create a spectacle intended to ward off bad luck. (Wearing red also does the trick.)

To party-hop between the two Chinatowns, catch the Apex Bus ($15 one way, $28 round trip; http://www.apexbus.com). During the two-hour ride, we suggest you practice saying "gung hay fat choy." In the coming days, you'll be wishing -- and receiving -- it a lot.

-- Ben Chapman

Chinese New Year Lion Dance and Parade: Wednesday at 11 p.m. and Feb. 10, 17 and 24 at noon. 10th and Arch streets, Philadelphia, 215-922-2156. Free.

Chinese Lunar New Year Celebration: Feb. 10, 2-5 p.m. H Street between Sixth and Eighth NW, 202-271-7002, http://www.chinatownchamber.us. Free.

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