Chinese people have high respect in dragons. They believe that they descended from dragons and they perform the dragon dance during Lunar New Year as a highlight of the celebration. Last Chinese New Year, I went down the local Chinatown to hunt the sometimes elusive dragon.
In a dragon dance, a group of men performs choreographed steps while holding poles that carry the dragon. Accompanied by drums, the dancer holding the head jumps and dances to imitate the supposed movement of a dragon. Meanwhile the men holding the poles of the body follow their leader and create a wave-like movement of the body.
It used to be a rain dance for an agriculture-dependent China. Today, it is preformed to scare away evil spirits and bad luck. Now, it is the highlight of every Chinese New Year because a dragon signifies power, wealth, and wisdom.
Sometimes, it stretches up to more than thirty meters long and the details of the dragon are very intricate. The color of a dragon’s body represent different meanings; green for bountiful harvest, gold and silver for prosperity, and red for good fortune.
Most of the dances that I have seen were performed in front of shops with firecrackers. The dragon is accompanied by a lion; they dance to bring good fortune to the store. And the shop owner gives Ang Pao in return to the dragon.
Of course, the people will always want to have a picture taken with the dragon!