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Brave preschoolers feed the Lion to thank it for scaring away bad luck. The red envelopes traditionally contain payment (lay see) to the Lion Dance team for their performance. This encounter was on the UH campus for very young scholars and I think they may have made some of the red envelopes as a craft project. Adults also lined up to feed the Lion. Some were brave enough to tease it and make it jump up high to catch the offering. The Lion crept down very low on its knees or stomach for the tiny tots to reach its mouth.
In parades, the Lion Dance is often accompanied by fireworks and loud music – all part of the effort to scare away evil spirits so good luck can follow. This Lion did have the traditional drum, gong and symbol to provide music, but they were situated away from the children so not to scare them. Nonetheless, several youngsters watched the entire dance with their hands over their ears.
The Lion Dance is quite acrobatic with choreographed movements. Some vary and others are traditional. A fun one is that the Lion shakes its head after eating the red envelopes, as though it is happy with the meal. In this case, the Lion dancers appeared to be teen-aged young men who took turns dancing as the Lion or playing the instruments. They were very gentle with the young children and teasing with the adults.
The Lion Dance is sometimes confused with the Dragon Dance. Dragons are held aloft on sticks with supporting dancers/runners fully visible below. Lion dancers are concealed inside the costume. I’ve never been this close to one before, so I don’t know if this is unique, but this Lion had a little tail (like a lamb) that it shook to make the children laugh.
There were no fireworks for this Lion Dance but they are beginning to explode in Hawaii neighborhoods. Saturday is the eve of the lunar near year, which is coming in with a bang!