Chinese New Year Comes in with a Bang!

Today is the start of the lunar new year but the big celebration was last weekend in Hawaii. The Chinese community and Honolulu celebrated The New Year in a jointly sponsored event that spanned two busy days of activity. I really look forward to this particular holiday every year because I love the tradition based festival. Chinatown is stung up in red lanterns, the color of luck, and every store and window has merchandise and posters for the current Year of the Rabbit. (I’m an Ox, based on my birth year. – and while I’m on the subject, one of my favorite gifts for a mainlander is a jade charm on red string depicting their year, to hang wherever they please for good luck. I have several of my own.)

I love the craziness of the Lion Dances and the fireworks that are a part of this tradition. When I saw my first lion dance, I was amazed at how colorful, quick footed, and realistic they were. And LOUD! The dancers are accompanied by drums and gongs, and when the dancers go from business to business, there are fireworks hanging from each front door, and set off with an amazingly loud bang of a thousand pops, while the dragon does its dance. The tradition continues as people offer money into the mouth of the dragon head for a good luck offering. You learn that if you watch more than one of these, ear plugs are a must. And maybe wearing a hat, to protect yourself from flying debris of the firecrackers. It’s all pretty wild, especially when you factor in the crowds – which are wall to wall for this very popular event.

Photo credits L: Kyle Nishioka R: (& text) Consuela Peris Yokomura

The second day of the celebration is when the parade is held. Last year when I attended this, I was amazed at the crowds on each side of the street and the variety and extent of the participating groups who walked and performed. This is not your standard main street parade – it’s made up of quite a cultural array of groups, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This year I went down for the street fair held Saturday evening. Several streets are blocked off to hold all the street vendors, and to showcase stages of local entertainment. There was food everywhere, very reasonably priced and just as fresh and local. The Chinese Cultural Center also had events also going on.

rabbits, dragon head and street fair stuff

Considering this weekend was the Pro Bowl, with its street fair in Waikiki that was going on at the same time, I was surprised at the crowds that turned out in Chinatown. This attests to the popularity of this weekend of events. I would highly suggest a visitor try to attend if they plan a trip to Hawaii at the end of January. The actual date of the New Year is February 3, but most festivities start before then. There are a few more events over the next week, and I hope to attend and maybe get back to you here with another report.

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