Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chinese New Year Parade

    The kids were not overly excited about going to a parade today.  Lately, the parades we have been to have not been great. Instead of decorated floats and candy being thrown, they are now full of cars with  magnetic signs and fliers handed out to solicit business. Maybe people are too busy these days to put any effort into parades, or maybe they are strapped because of the economy. All I know, is after the 4th of July parade I promised everyone we would not go again. But I really wanted to go to this parade.  I told my family I had a feeling it would be worth it. Scott was game and even seemed excited! We woke up to rain and clouds, but we bundled everyone up and went anyway.

     We parked in a really tall parkade. The kids were so amazed by just that, we could have gone home and they would have had a good day. We found seats easily and waited for the parade to begin. It started raining and the kids started to fuss but I reminded them, "You are not made of sugar!" (Thank you Shelly Button for that. It has come in handy many times.)

      It was really fun. The parade began with a man throwing firecrackers, and the dragon was behind him. The drums were constant and everyone was so upbeat. It was kinda thrilling! Then swarms of people started handing out red envelopes with candy and money inside. It was brilliant, actually. Instead of one person from each float doing it, hundreds of people handed them out in the very beginning. There were a few politicians and a few news anchors but none of them were in cars. They all walked. Even the Princesses in their 5 inch heels! I was impressed.

          I wasn't prepared for how much I would love the Lion Dancers. They were amazing! Their movements were so unpredictable and they moved so quickly. It was a real crowd pleaser. Most people tried to touch the lions because they felt it would bring them good luck for the coming year. I felt a little afraid of them!

The lion dance is rich in tradition and history. It is a combination of dance and martial arts and is accompanied by vigorous drumming and loud cymbals. It is thought that the lion wards of evil spirits and brings luck and safety for the new year. The colors and the patterns on each lion depicts a certain aspect of the Chinese culture. During Chinese New Year the lions  visit cities as a part of the traditional custom called, "Cai Ching." which means, "plucking the greens." We noticed there was a head of lettuce suspended from each doorway in China Town. We didn't know what it was for until after the parade. The lions proceeded to each business and approached the lettuce much like a cat plays with a mouse. There was a lot of fanfare and dancing. The lion ate the lettuce in grand style, and in return got to keep the money that was tucked inside the head of lettuce. It was so interesting watching the crowds of people follow the lions around and jump out of the way of the firecrackers as they were thrown near the lion's feet.

     I was proud being there, with my daughter. I looked at her little face that resembled so many other faces around us and felt a little pang of envy. How wonderful to be part of such a rich and beautiful culture! She looked so cute sitting there with her Daddy waving to the lions and dragons.
I think Autumn must have been feeling the same way as me because at one point she turned her face up to me and asked, "What is our culture?" It seems like a simple enough question, right? But it's not easy to answer because I don't fully know. As Americans we have so many roots it's hard to identify the tree. I think Americans have a bit of an identity crisis. I hear my friends often say, "We are German, Norwegian and Native American." Or, "We are Dutch, four generations removed from Holland." Or, "We are Italian." (And they have blonde hair and blue eyes.)  My little speech is, "We are Scottish on pretty much every side, so when you add it all up we are pretty much 100%." I am not saying it's bad to be just plain old American, but I would LOVE to have a culture to relate to. With music, food, and traditions. Today, I had a wonderful time...but it left me feeling a little lost. I guess I can't really explain it very well. But when this lion came up to Havensong and nuzzled her little face, I got choked up.

     I'd say the kids liked lunch as much as the parade. We went into New Town Bakery and Restaurant and ate prawn tarts and steamed buns. It was SO GOOD! We saw everyone eating them and when we finally found the restaurant we had to fight the masses in order to get some. We stood in the middle of the street and eating them, the warm bread thawing out our hands. We are for sure going back to that spot. It will be a family favorite from now on. The menu was very extensive with most things $1.50 each.

     It was a good day. Havensong enjoyed all the sights and sounds. Below is a video of the Lion playing with her. She was pretty tired by this time and wasn't really in the mood, but it was so cute.


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