January 29th, 2006 ushers in the lunar new year. The day is often called Chinese New Year but several Asian cultures celebrate. But specifically for the Chinese, it is now year 4704, and it is the year of the dog (one of 12 animals in a cycle).
I followed my mother to three lion dances at the bank branches in Chinatown yesterday. The dances, along with firecrackers, are meant to scare away any evil spirits. Particular to the bank, the lions always go into the vault; I always thought that a particularly good premise for a bank heist in a book or movie.
Every year, I am amazed at artistry and emotion that goes into the lion dances. Youth from around the city join these lion dance “clubs” and this is the prime time to show off (along with the Chinese New Year parade on February 11th, this year).
The past two nights have consisted of plenty of family and friend dinners. As per tradition, married couples give children (of any age; basically anyone unmarried) red envelopes stuffed with money symbolizing good luck and fortune. This proves to be very “rewarding” for kids (one person has been noted for describing the red envelopes as “free money”) but don’t even think of asking how I did.
New Year’s Anecdote:
I remember quite clearly as a middle schooler going to a Chinese New Year assembly where a lady taught us the traditional greeting of good fortune at this time of year. I remember being very upset because she taught: “Gung Xi Fa Tsai,” far different from what most kids in San Francisco know: “Gung Hay Fat Choy.” I was convinced this speaker was saying it wrong until I realized that it was simply a matter of the standard Mandarin versus the SF-spoken Cantonese…