Monday, January 26, 2009

Year of the Ox

Monday is the Chinese New Year. This year will be the Year of the Ox. There were big celebrations going on in Chinatown so we headed down there this weekend to check it out.

The streets were really, really crowded. There were many vendors selling food and souvenirs, but we couldn't get to them without fear of losing each other in the crush. We just glanced at everything as we went by. I want to go back down there on a normal day when it isn't so crowded and check out the stores and markets.

We found a spot to watch the parade and it happened to be right in front of a produce market. The prices were excellent, I just wasn't in a produce purchasing mood. I can't usually watch a parade while hanging on to my carrots and green onions. The food they were selling smelled heavenly, so we broke down and bought some grilled corn on the cob and egg rolls.

The parade got started with with firecrackers and confetti showers and one obnoxious teen girl near us who felt the need to scream shrilly every so often.

One of the most entertaining (and colorful) parts of the parade was the dancing dragons. They were interspersed throughout the entire parade. They were usually accompanied by drums and cymbals. The person in the dragon's head would dance, and the person in the dragon's rear would just walk bent over. I kept thinking about how bad my back would hurt if I were walking like that for the whole parade!

As the dragons walked along, people would throw little Snap 'N Pops at their feet to scare away devils and keep the dragons awake (since dragons normally hibernate in wintertime). They would also stick dollar bills into the dragon's mouths. The dragons at the beginning of the parade made lots of money as everyone was excited to feed a dragon. The dragons at the end of the parade probably didn't get as much, because everyone had already handed out their money.

There were also dancing dragons on poles carried by ten or so men. They did very intricate moves - jumping over the center of the dragon like a jump rope and nearly tying him in knots. Very entertaining to watch!

Most of the parade consisted of people in matching tee shirts who just walked along and waved. Not terribly entertaining for a parade. This group in yellow was made up of senior citizens who stopped and did stretching exercises.

Another very entertaining aspect was the groups of martial arts students who stopped and did demonstrations. Some of those were really fun to watch.

We liked the ones who used weapons in their demonstrations the best.

There were also some pretty girls strolling along. They didn't have tiaras, or sashes, or a banner telling who they were. But I guess if you just want to dress up and walk in a parade, you can.

There were quite a number of beauty queens in the parade. Not only did the winner of each pageant get to ride in a car and wave, but so did the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd runners up. The parade kept grinding to a halt and these gals would sit in front of us, smiling and waving. After a while they had smiled and waved at everyone in sight, and they still weren't moving forward. What do you do when no one wants to smile and wave back at you any more? Most of them still sat there with their smiles frozen on their faces but stopped waving. One gal quit pretending entirely and slumped down, unsmiling, staring at her knee caps. As soon as the car started forward, she snapped her head back up, slapped on a smile and started waving.
Katie, bless her heart, waved enthusiastically at every single person who came by. She was smiled at and waved to by all the politicians and beauty queens who seemed relieved to have someone specific to direct their attention to for a few moments. One woman in a tee shirt group ran over and gave Katie a pencil with their logo on it. A little boy next to Katie yelled, "Hey! No fair!" The woman turned back around and told him, "You should have waved at me." And she marched away.

Even Ronald McDonald came to Chinatown. Poor thing had to sit there and listen to people yell, "I'll take a Big Mac with fries!" at him and act like it was the funniest thing he'd ever heard over and over and over.

Amazingly, we didn't see any traditional Chinese costumes. This was of the few I saw which was even close.
After the parade was over, it was getting dark and we decided to go find a restaurant and eat. We had two other families with us but none of us had ever been to Chinatown before and we weren't sure where we were. We turned down one street that had graffiti all over the walls and bars on the windows. As we got about halfway down the street a little old Asian woman screamed at some youths who were lounging around, "I've called the police! You people are selling drugs!" We skittered past the group trying not to make eye contact and finally found a wonderful restaurant in a nice area.

Quite enough excitement for one day!

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