A little late, and I’m sorry about that (though Chinese New Year is still going… it’s not a one day thing). This week has been crazy with thesis stuff and getting moved stuff. And then actual Chinese New Year weekend (2/2-3), I was busy. Doing what you ask?
Let me show you.
Chinese New Year weekend is huge for my kung fu school. Normally that weekend we do a series of lion dance performances (often in front of audiences that seem scarily huge), plus kung fu performances. One of the biggest is at the Far East Center, where we’ve been performing for twelve years now if I remember correctly. (I’ve only been in for eight years, and only performed kung fu in the last few years because I wasn’t awesome enough before that.) Normally I play cymbals during the lion dance as well.
As you can tell, we are professionals.
Chinese New Year means a ton of firecrackers. I wear earplugs and shatter-proof, wrap-around eye protection. I’ve almost gotten hit in the eye with a firecracker before. The noise is insane even with earplugs, and then you add in the drum, cymbals, and gong. And let’s not even talk about the choking smoke and resultant black snot.
All that’s left after the strings of firecrackers have gone off.
You also see the heads of lettuce everywhere. Often there’ll be a red envelope tied to it, which sometimes is a dummy and sometimes contains the payment for the performance. These are called hong bao, and it’s a big part of the lion dance. The lions have to retrieve the lettuce and the envelopes, then rip up the lettuce and throw it around. If I remember correctly, that’s because the word for lettuce and money sound very similar, so it’s a way for the lions to spread wealth around for the coming year. During restaurant performances especially, people in the audience will sometimes have more red envelopes they put money in, and the lions go around and “eat” the envelopes.
We also do lion performances to show off the amazing skills our performers have.
And then the kung fu. But a little warning:
In past years I’ve done an empty hand form in performance. This year I also did two weapons forms. It was a scary, but I think I did all right. I did nine-ring broadsword, which is still my favorite weapon ever, and actually the thing that lured me into my school – I saw it in performance and immediately thought holy shit that is the most badass thing I have ever seen in my life I WANNA LEARN IT.
And I also did double broadswords with my buddy Brandon.
It was an exhausting weekend, but also incredibly fun. I love Chinese New Year, even if at the time (freezing cold and choking on smoke) I sometimes wish it could always be done in a nice warm theater with hot chocolate instead.