THE CHINESE NEW YEAR PARADE: DRAGONS AND LIONS
The most popular event of the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival is the Chinese New Year Parade. The actual date is determined by the Chinese lunar calendar and falls in late January or early February. The celebrations last for 15 days, although today, many families celebrate for five. Since the New Year’s festival traditionally marks the beginning of the planting season in China, a major character is a dragon, bringer of rain and good luck.
In China, the dragon is held in high esteem for its dignity and power for good. Today, highlights of Chinese New Year parades include the huge, undulating cloth dragon and prancing lions, which make their way through narrow streets of Chinatowns around the world. They are accompanied by three musicians playing a large drum, cymbals and a gong, who play loudly to chase the evil spirits away.
The mask of the lion is made from paper-maché and bamboo, and fits over a dancer's shoulders. The dancer can move the lion's eyes, mouth and ears with his hands. The lion's body, which is attached to the head, consists of a long piece of cloth. It is often decorated with sequins and mock fur. Lion Dances are used to expel evil spirits and bring good luck.
The dragon is a huge puppet. The mask made of bamboo or paper-maché is worn by one man, and the long body of brightly colored cloth is carried by the many dancers hidden beneath it.
RED AND CHINESE NEW YEAR TRADITIONS
Red is my favorite color. It symbolizes fire and during Chinese New Year, Chinese wear the color red because it is believed that wearing red will scare away evil spirits and bad fortune.
Lia Chang in her custom-tailored red cheongsam from Hong Kong. The cheongsam or qipao (chipao) was created in the 1920s in Shanghai and was made fashionable by socialites and upper-class women.
My grandfather brought this robe from China for my grandmother.
My mother gave me this jade bracelet, which was given to her by my great-grandmother, during a Chinese New Year’s eve dinner many years ago. The Lai See (red envelopes) with our family Chinese name were given to be my Auntie Pauline. Traditionally, Red envelopes are given during Chinese New Year’s celebrations, from married couples or the elderly to unmarried children. The number 8 is considered lucky (for its homophone for “wealth”), and $8 is commonly found in the red envelopes.
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Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist.
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