Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Year Of The Ox and New Year's Celebrations

I've already written one post about Lunar New Year, so if you don't know what it is, check out that post. As you probably already know, I spent my Lunar New Year in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has got to be the best place in the world to celebrate the New Year. The entire city is completely decked out. Think any US city during Christmas season, then change the Christmas trees for dragons and oxen (it's the year of the ox) and all the colors to red, and you might have a fair idea of what Hong Kong was like. Every store, every mall, every restaurant, completely decorated.

Lunar New Year seems to be all about bringing good luck for the new year, and avoiding bad luck. There are many superstitions about what sort of things you should and should not do on during New Years to have the best possible year. Fireworks ward away bad spirits. So does the color red. So, for that reason, you'll see red lanterns and red scrolls hung all over the place. In the next photo here, you can see me spinning a wheel. They say if you spin this wheel in one directions as many times as your "lucky number" (which was a rather complicated calculation for me) you can either find new love in the new year, or have long lasting love... depending on the direction you spin the wheel in. I'm not sure how much stock I take on these things, but I figure it can't hurt to give it a whirl... literally. They had these wheels for studies, careers, wealth, and luck too. I spun them all.

Speaking of auspice for the new year... Did you know that I was born in the year of the ox? I feel like being born in the year of the ox and visiting China to celebrate the year of the ox is quite auspicious... but not only that.. but! Guess what I found on new year's day? A real live ox!!!

Talk about luck. I think this has got to be good luck for the whole year. I found this guy on New Year's day on Lantau Island not so far from the Big Buddha. He was just sort of wandering around in the brush. Where did he come from? I have no idea.

We visited a small temple in SoHo and found quite a few worshipers putting out their offerings of incense and fruit.

Then there was the parade. This parade is quite famous for being one of the biggest Chinese New Year parades in the world. The parade started around 8:00 on Jan 26th. We got there around 7, and there were already quite a few folks there, but fortunately we were right in front of one the three performance areas along the parade route, and there was a screen for us short folk to watch on (Yea, I'm even short in Asia. What the heck?).

We had gotten a little preview in the previous days. Every time we walked past the Avenue of Stars, we caught a glimpse of some of the performing groups in their rehearsals. And this ox mascot that was so darn cute. I wish I could have gotten a good pic of him from the front.

After waiting around for a while and being entertained by the MC/ croudwarmer.... who spoke mostly in Chinese, but every once in a while switched into near perfect English when he found foreigners in the crowd, the parade finally started. I expected more dragons... like these above. Actually, it was more like a parade at home. Lots of floats from all over. Performing groups from all over too. America's contribution to the parade were some NFL cheerleaders . They sure did get some cheers from the crowd.

Here was one float from Japan. They actually had two, the other being much more amazing, but no photo would have done it justice. It consisted of some men balancing bamboo polls strung up with at least 50 paper lanterns, on their chin, forehead, hip and anywhere else mildly feasible. These bamboo polls were at tall and wide as sails. I was certain they were going to crash them, they were balancing so precariously. One big gust of wind and they would be on top of us all. But it never happened.

I was happy to see that Korea made a good show of their traditional music and dancing. Korean folk dancing is unmistakable. If it weren't for the brightly colored hanbok, you could still pick it out by the dancers that do a ribbon dance by having the ribbon attached to their head while they dance. It's about time the world sees how awesome Korea is.

Anyway, I had a great Lunar New Year in Hong Kong. Before I went, I read that It's not the best time to go. There may be a few cons to go during Lunar New Year, but I think that the reasons TO go during Lunar New Year far outweigh the cons. Lunar New Year falls on February 14th next year. You've got a year to plan your trip. ^^

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