I headed to Boston's Historic Chinatown this morning to see the Chinese New Year Lion Dance Parade. I had wanted to go last year, but didn't realize that it was happening until the morning of the parade 5 minutes before it was going to start. Needless to say, I did not make it. I was determined to go this year and made it! However, I thought the parade started at 10 AM, but it didn't really start until 11 AM. Also, the parade is not traditional in the sense of how you think a parade would go.
Normally, a parade starts on one street, then follows a route to the end and then it is over. This parade started in one central location, then the dancing lions would slowly depart the main area and begin the dance down the street. It took me a while to realize this, but once I figured it out, I had a fantastic time watching the parade. There were different shops that the lions would stop in front of to dance. Once the lions departed the first stop, another set of dancing lions would come in to do their dance. Each lion had their own musical entourage. It was really cool to see.
I learned a lot from this parade. One thing I had always thought these were dancing dragons and not lions. Upon researching, I discovered that you can tell the difference this way:
Dancing Lions: >> two people >> can't see dancers faces
Dancing Dragons: >> multiple people >> can see dancers faces >> costumes are held up with poles
I also noticed that when the lions stopped in front of a shop, shop owners would place oranges and cabbages out for the lions to "consume." I had to research this as well - I am obviously not very well versed on what everything means - and found that these items were offerings. The lions would dance in front of the shop to make their presence known. The lions then inspect the food laid out for them. When the restaurant owner comes to the door to feed the lions, they bow down graciously three times. The lions will then toss the oranges into the air. Whoever catches the oranges will have good luck for the year. The cabbages are tossed to the ground and the lions crush them to bring good luck to the crowd. Many of the restaurants also had firecrackers, which were lit and symbolizes good luck to the restaurant for the year.
Overall, the experience is really cool. I definitely recommend attending a Chinese New Year celebration next year! They're celebrated at different times (as long as it falls in the lunar new year schedule) in different cities!
Happy Chinese New Year! Especially to all the Monkeys!
Learn more about the history of the Chinese Parade