The Dragon and Lion Dance
Kung Hei Fat Choi!!!
It’s Chinese New Year once again and one of the most important and exciting part of this celebration was the Dragon and Lion Dances.
Living near two of the biggest and most popular malls in the country I have come to look forward to these performances. Last year I was only able to see one performance which was at SM City North EDSA and it was really beautiful. But this year, unplanned though it was I was able to see both performances from the Dragon and Lion dances from Trinoma and SM malls.
We were eating breakfast at Jollibee having come straight from church when the Dragon and Lion dances at SM started. I told the boys to run and watch the performance and they came back wide eyed and excited about the fireworks and wanted to know what the dances means.
I realized, a lot of the people there probably didn’t know what these performances means and were just simply enjoying the entertainment.
In the Chinese culture the dragon had always been the bringing of wealth, good fortune and luck…thus it is only fitting that at every major celebration like the Chinese New Year and others the Dragon should be performed. The dragon is usually composed of 10-30 dancers who’re trained especially for these performances. It is believed that the longer the dragon, the more powerful it is, that is why sometimes dragon performances can have up to 50 dancers performing.
The Dragon is always welcome everywhere it goes and any business establishment that it decides to enter is considered very lucky. The dragon would enter the business establishment moving forwards and go up to all the parts of the store even the private offices then it is given an offering usually money inside an Ang Pao (a red envelope) placing this inside the dragon’s mouth. After that the dragon would exit moving backwards, with its tail going out first. The explanation for was that the dragon entered forward to bring and its exiting backwards so that the good fortune it brought will be left behind where it had entered.
Now, the Lion dance is often mistaken for a Dragon dance by most people. But to distinguish this – the lion dances are always performed by only two people whereas the dragon dances are performed by no less than 10 people. The Lion dance is probably the most artistic and fun celebration dance I have ever seen. In ancient times Lion dances are performed by individual martial arts schools.
The Lion is viewed as a protector, and so business welcome their presence as well. The owner of the establishments would place money inside the Ang Pow and place this usually on the signage of the shop or like the one at Trinoma the Ang Pao were placed on the ceiling. The dancer holding the head of the lion would climb up on the shoulder of the dancer holding the tail and remove the Ang Pao using the Lion’s mouth.
In olden times, the Ang Pao were attached to a head of lettuce or cabbage and the lion would take the lettuce into its mouth tear the lettuce apart then spit the pieces out and keep the money. Sometimes, two lions from different martial arts school would approach the establishment at the same time and a lion fight over the lettuce would ensue. The fights are always fun to watch as they’re artistic dances imitating the movements of the lion mixed with martial arts style.