I don’t know about you, but our traditional New Year comes too fast for my tastes. We’re still recovering from Christmas but haven’t put away the decorations, and we’re back to partying to ring in the new year. What’s much more my style is celebrating Lunar New Year, or Chinese New Year, a few weeks later when things have calmed down. Not only is it later in the year, but it also lasts longer. Seven days of partying? Yes please.
When we lived in Orlando, we lived near an Asian grocery store that would have a lion dance (I thought it was a dragon until I read this) for the New Year, and we loved going. Max was a toddler, and he delighted in the undulating waves of the magical lion. We would buy red envelopes to give him lucky money, per Chinese tradition. And of course, we’d eat Chinese food to celebrate.
Lunar New Year in San Diego
It’s been about 10 years since we had those traditions in Florida, and I’m sad to say we didn’t really pick them up after moving here. But this year, the year of the Fire Rooster, my love of Lunar New Year got reignited.
There’s an outdoor food market in my neighborhood called Fair at 44. I’d been meaning to check them out, but hadn’t when I heard about the Lunar New Year celebration. I invited a friend and her daughter to check it out. There was a good number of people there, enjoying food from El Salvador, Brazil, Africa, Hawaii, and Korea (a noticeable lack of Chinese food did not slip my attention). But the highlight was the lion dance.
If you’ve never seen a lion dance, you’re missing out. They’re a huge part of Chinese history, and are often part of celebrations. There’s a lot of superstition involved in the costume and dance (to ward off evil spirits), and they bring everyone good luck.
A group of young Asian men who practice kung fu took turns dancing as the lion and teasing the audience. Interestingly, they’d switch out every five minutes or so. I imagine it gets hot in the costume, and the physical exertion must be tiring. Occasionally they’d perform a stunt where they would get on one another’s shoulders to extend their lion to the sky.
Audience members could feed the lion money for luck. My friend nearly got her arm bitten off!
This is a great example of how, even in your local community, you can find a piece of another culture. You don’t have to travel far to find it!