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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Spreading luck and fortune

Attendees celebrating in dragon costumes. PHOTO: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

Lion Dance Parade celebrates Chinese New Year

In honor of Chinese New Year, the 2019 Lion Dance Parade made its way around Philadelphia’s Chinatown on Feb. 10.

A celebration of the holiday, restaurants and stores in Chinatown hung firecrackers and lettuce outside their shops, two traditional practices believed to bring luck. People of all ages lined the six streets that the parade went down, looking to catch a glimpse of the colorful costumes.

The Lion Dance Parade is put on by the non-profit volunteer organization, Philadelphia Suns, which is based in Philadelphia’s Chinatown. With the Lion Dance event, the Suns aim to harness the importance of tradition for youth and use the funds towards the organization’s recreational events for youth members.

“Lion dancing is scaring away the evil spirit and welcoming the new good luck and fortune,” said Timothy Mac, a junior at Drexel University and a member of the Philadelphia Suns. “Red is good luck in Chinese, and the loud crackling scares away the evil spirit.”

Julie Juan Yu, Ph.D., director of China Programs at St. Joe’s and advisor for the Chinese Student and Scholar Association (CSSA), said the Lion Dance Parade is her favorite event during the Chinese New Year. 

“I have many fond memories of lion dances since my childhood,” Yu said. “I even have a lion dance performance costume and drum set in my office, as I used to teach lion dancing to my students when I taught Chinese language and cultural classes.”

According to Yu, the Chinese New Year, also called Spring Festival or Lunar New Year, is the biggest holiday in China, and people frequently travel home to celebrate the festivities with family and friends.

“Many traditions revolve around luck and activities regarded as lucky that may bring good fortune, happiness, wealth and longevity,” Yu said. “Oftentimes, these activities include cleaning, or forbearing from cleaning, giving away money in red paper envelopes, lighting firecrackers or celebrating with lion dancing.”

These activities were all practiced during the parade in Chinatown. Many in attendance wore earplugs in hopes of drowning out the popping of firecrackers.

Jennie Bui, 17, who attends Central High School in Philadelphia, wore a bandana to protect her face from the flying debris of the firecrackers. Bui, along with three others, held a yellow banner at the front of the parade for the Philadelphia Suns.

“The guy in the little hat is supposed to be leading to lions,” Bui said. “So the lion is supposed to represent good luck with the fireworks. It is like the guy leading luck into stores. That is why the stores are having [fireworks].”

Mango Mango Dessert on Cherry Street was one of the restaurants that put out firecrackers and lettuce, for which the lions are believed to be competing as they stop by along the parade route. 

Miranda Tan, a senior at Temple University, works at Mango Mango Dessert and reminisced about being in the Lion Dance Parade.

“My favorite part is the amount of people, all the energy and positive vibes,” Tan said.

According to Tan, it is tradition for a majority of the Chinatown stores to hang fireworks and lettuce outside their storefront.

“Pretty much every store has it,” Tan said. “After they are done, we give them a red envelope for good luck in return of what they are doing.”

Customers at the Mango Mango Dessert shop received an up-close look when one of the lions and performers came inside the restaurant.

Lamei Zhang is the projects manager for Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC), a nonprofit organization that has promoted the Lion Dance Parade for the past 10 years.

“We make a graphic to provide a bunch of information for everyone to let them know what kind of activities there are in Chinatown for the Chinese New Year, which includes the Lion Dance Parade,” Zhang said.

Promoting the Lion Dance event is a way that Zhang and PCDC advocate for the Chinatown neighborhood.

“The organization is very dedicated to the people of Chinatown as well as other people who don’t live in Chinatown and who cannot speak English,” Zhang said.

St. Joe’s CSSA also works to promote Chinese culture in the city. One event they host is an annual Spring Festival Gala alongside The University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University and Temple University, Yu said.

“As the CSSA advisor, I am very proud of all the Chinese students who showcased a spectacular performance at this year’s gala,” Yu said. “They make all of us Hawks proud.”

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