Dragon Dance

I posted some pictures both of the Mid-Autumn Festival lanterns and the Tai Hang dragon dance over on flickr, but I realized a little explanation was in order.

From Wikipedia: The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the few most important holidays in the Chinese calendar, the others being Chinese New Year andWinter Solstice, and is a legal holiday in several countries. Farmers celebrate the end of the summer harvesting season on this date. Traditionally on this day, Chinese family members and friends will gather to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, and eat moon cakes and pomelos together. Accompanying the celebration, there are additional cultural or regional customs, such as:

  • Eating mooncakes outside under the moon (lots of this ... we, for the record, don't really like mooncakes)

  • Putting pomelo rinds on one's head  (we didn't see any of this!)

  • Carrying brightly lit lanterns, lighting lanterns on towers, floating sky lanterns (lots of this, too, though a lot of the lanterns these days are plastic and shaped like cartoon characters!)

  • Burning incense in reverence to deities including Chang'e (lots)

  • Planting Mid-Autumn trees (didn't see any of this ...)

  • Collecting dandelion leaves and distributing them evenly among family members (nor this)

  • Fire Dragon Dances (well, as a matter of fact ...)

So I've mentioned how much we like our new neighborhood, Tai Hang. And this past weekend we realized that it is home to one of these dragon dances. From the Tai Hang Residents Welfare Association's Website:

The Fire Dragon Dance in Tai Hang has its origin in 1880. Tai Hang was a small Hakka village by the sea and most of the villagers were either farmers or fishermen. They lived a simple but peaceful life. The story began in one stormy night when the villagers killed a serpent. The body of the dead serpent disappeared in the next morning. Right after a plague spread out and many villagers died of infection. One night, an old villager saw Buddha in his dream and was advised to stop the plague by performing a fire dragon dance and burning fire crackers in the Mid-Autumn nights. It might be the sulphur in the fire crackers that disinfect the village and the villagers were saved. Since then, the villagers in Tai Hang would perform fire dragon dance during the Mid-Autumn Festival every year to commemorate the incident. The fire dragon is made of stuffed straw and stuck full of incense sticks, and is 220 feet long with 32 segments.

There are lots of photos and even videos online you can google, but here are some great ones---this guy obviously had a much better view than we did!

I should say that we didn't actually stick around for the whole thing ... It was getting very crowded, and late, and all that incense puts off a lot of smoke. But Finn loved the drums, he loved drumming Matt's head, and he's been talking about drums ever since. In fact, today we walked around the street where the dance had been and all he could say was "drums drums drums."