Thursday, February 2, 2012

Chinese New Year Festivities

Fancy Chinese New Year lanterns at the upscale mall

Believe or not, Austin, Texas does not have a very big Chinese New Year celebration. (In your head, I should sound slightly sarcastic.) Each year, I'd scope out the events at the Austin Chinatown Center shopping mall in hopes that the kids and I could catch a Dragon or Lion Dance. But something like a basketball game or birthday party always came up during the few hours that the celebration lasted.

Chinese New Year festivities were something that I really looked forward to when we moved to Malaysia. Penang is about 40% Chinese, so I figured something must happen. Boy, does it.

For the first two days, many stores and restaurants are closed so people can be with their families. The malls stay open and decorate everything in red and gold. Lanterns are strung up crossing over streets.

The fireworks go on night after night. The first time we heard the loud pops, we all rushed to the windows to take a look. Since we're high up, all the displays were below us. Looking out over the hills of Penang, we could pick out many different spots that were shooting them off. The fireworks were still worthy of our attention for the next few nights. After a while, we wouldn't even bother to look out anymore. On the ninth day, offerings are made to the Jade Emperor of Heaven. The fireworks that night were INSANE and more numerous than New Year's Eve. They started just before midnight and went on for 3 hours. We wanted to yell, "Enough already!! Just let us sleep!"

Who needs sleep? The Jade Emperor of Heaven must be appeased.

Dragon Dances pop up everywhere. Instead of a singing telegram of good wishes, people get a bunch of young men hopping around with a huge dragon draped over them. One afternoon, I heard incessant drumming and looked out the window to figure out its source. A dragon danced out of a nearby house, did their performance, then dashed away. I've seen them outside a doctor's office on a very congested street. At least I had something to look at while stuck in traffic. I even saw a dragon dance performed for the security office of an underground parking lot. Let me tell you, those big drums really reverberate in that kind of concrete area.

This dragon was little different because it was a giant multiperson puppet on poles.
Usually, the dragon is draped over the people, and just their legs stick out.

There was a huge Chinese Heritage Festival in the historic area last weekend in conjunction with the New Year Celebrations. I think my boys' favorite part was playing Wei Qi (Chinese Chess).

Fifteen days after they started, the festivities will come to an end in Malaysia with Chap Go Meh, nicknamed Chinese Valentine's Day. Unmarried ladies scribble their name and email address or telephone number on oranges and hurl them into the ocean. Eligible bachelors fish out the oranges and make contact. Doesn't that sound like a great set up for a reality TV show? I really think someone needs to pitch it to Hollywood.

The last night also marks the Lantern Festival.

1 comment:

  1. I think you're right...that's a reality show in the making. If Kitchen Musical can make it on TV, then this version of Bachelorette surely should as well. :D

    We've also seen numerous dragon and lion dances and the drums are incredibly loud. The only thing I haven't experienced is the fireworks. I know Singapore had a huge display in the first few days but I haven't heard of anything else in the days that have followed. Probably a good thing.


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