China–Chinese New Year (Lion Dance, Dragon Dance)

 

CHINESE NEW YEAR, the LION DANCE and the DRAGON DANCE

Chinese New Year–often called Chinese Lunar New Year although it actually is lunisolar–is the most important traditional Chinese holiday. It’s a two week long celebration marked by gift-giving, food-sharing, firecracker-cracking and much joyful celebration. The festival traditionally takes place at the end of winter and marks not only a start of a new year, but the impending coming of spring. Wondering how to celebrate the Chinese New Year? Here’s a handy guide, thanks to Wikipedia’s entry on the Chinese New Year:

BEFORE NEW YEAR: In preparation for New Year celebrations families will thoroughly clean their houses to symbolically sweep away the bad spirits (make sure to hide your brooms during the celebration so the new year’s good luck can’t be swept away) and hang red-colored lanterns and paper. The night before the beginning of the festival the family gathers for a huge meal and prepares for the fun to come.

DAY 1:
Visit family, especially elders, set off firecrackers or go to public displays of fireworks, give red envelopes containing gifts and do the lion dance (more on the lion dance below)

DAY 2: married daughters visit birth parents, be nice to dogs
— the second day of the Chinese New Year is considered every dog’s symbolic birthday!

DAY 3: known as “chì gǒu ri,” loosely translated as “the God of Blazing Wrath.” Not a great day to visit with family or socialize.

DAY 5: The birthday of the Chinese god of wealth.

DAY 7: Renri, “the common man’s birthday,” is the day when everyone is accepted to have grown one year older.

DAY 8: dine with family again to officially end the holiday.

If you want to keep going beyond the celebration’s formal end you’ll find another week of festivities ahead.

DAY 9: Offer prayers to the Taoist Jade Emperor, who rules heaven.

DAY 13: A day dedicated to General Guan Yu, the Chinese God of War.

DAY 15
: The day of the Lantern Festival; light a lantern outside your house to guide the spirits of your ancestors home. (Fifteen days is a long time for any relatives to visit, whether or not they’re alive.)

LION DANCE and DRAGON DANCE:
The lion dance and the dragon dance are two different dances performed as part of Chinese new year celebrations. In the lion dance, two performers hidden inside the brightly-colored costume of a lion perform a choreographed, martial arts-like series of steps. See the lion dance here | You too can learn the Lion Dance just like Christian and Teeny did | Look hard? It is. But these guys will teach you how to do it. (There are no lions in China, by the way, so this is pure symbolism.)

In the dragon dance, between several and several dozen people parade together holding a colorful dragon above their heads on poles. See the dragon dance here. (There are no dragons in China, by the way, so this is pure symbolism.)

In class we’re going to listen to lion dance music but dance both like lions and dragons.

More information:
Curious about the Chinese calendar?: (What year is it on the Chinese calendar? There are actually three answers.) | What is your Chinese zodiac sign and what does that mean? (2011, by the way, is the year of the rabbit)

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