I really love surprises when I’m traveling. Not the nasty, “Your flight is canceled” or “No, we don’t have your reservation” disasters. I relish the unexpected, the experiences and sights not written up in the guide books. The Serendipity.
Had one of those experiences recently in Hong Kong when we got a letter from management of our hotel notifying us that our street would be closed off for the New Year’s Eve Countdown.
That wasn’t the surprise though. The happy news appeared almost as an afterthought. It said that on New Year’s Day there would a Dragon and Lion Dance Extravaganza right near our hotel. Hundreds of Dragon and Lion Dancers would be performing right in our back yard.
Wowy zowy…..like Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for Chinese Culture Addicts.
I immediately scratched any plan to visit the Big Buddha, Victoria Peak or one of thousands of markets in this fabulous city on that day.
Instead, camera in hand I roamed the crowded area, trying to get the best shots possible given the swirling masses of dancers, volunteers, family members of the participants and festival goers.
I don’t know too much about this tradition but am learning. Our son’s wedding included a Lion Dance ceremony designed to promote prosperity and fertility. (This is good, huh?). The colorful pageantry fascinating me.
I learned that Dragons are legendary animals important to Chinese people who think of them as friendly, helpful creatures, not at all like the fire breathing fierce creatures of the Western world. They don’t carry off princesses or eat people. Instead they are linked to long life and wisdom.
Having special powers enabling them to fly in the air, swim in the sea and walk on land, they often perform at New Year’s to ward off evil spirits.
Street celebrations often include a traditional LionDance which is thought to bring good luck. There are usually two dancers. One acts as the head
and the other the body. They dance to a drum, cymbals and a gong. A mirror is placed on the head of the lion so that evil spirits will be frightened away by their own reflections.
The whole extravaganza was marvelous I but found myself drawn to the small children, clearly learning and participating in traditional Chinese rituals.