Lion Dancers Inspire Good Luck

DAVID SEPULVEDA PHOTOSThe Chinese Year of the Horse may have just started but it was a pair of lions, gulping offerings from parade goers lining Whitney Avenue and occasionally stopping to perform ritual dances at business thresholds, that got most of the attention at a celebratory kick-off parade.

The parade which took place Saturday as part of Lunarfest 2014, a day-long celebration of culture and the Chinese New Year, started at mid-morning on Whitney Avenue between Olive and Trumbull Streets. Moderating temperatures and bright sun provided an auspicious beginning to the parade, which is now it its third year.

Sponsored by the Council on East Asian Studies at Yale, New Haven Museum and Yale-China Association, the festivities for the first time included an expanded program of student performances with Dancers from Educational Center for the Arts (ECA) ...

... martial Arts forms by Yale Wushu…

... and young performers from the Southern Connecticut Chinese School. 

Another first for the annual parade, was the inclusion of a New Haven mayor. Mayor Toni Harp led the parade, followed by a pair of undulating festival lions, their piercing eyes and snapping jaws surrounded by soft furry trim and other brilliantly patterned textiles. Lion Dancers hailed from the Wan Chi Ming Gar Institute’s lion Dance troupe; their animated movement inspired by martial arts traditions.

Nancy Yao Maasbach (pictured), one of the festival organizers and the executive director of the 113-year-old, New Haven-based Yale-China Association, could be seen handing out candies and the small bright red envelopes that are a Chinese tradition. Typically given out on New Years Day, envelopes containing money were given by unmarried people to those who are married. Lunarfest parade-goers received foil-wrapped chocolate coins and other surprises in their good-luck envelopes.

“New Haven has given so much to Chinese culture,” Massbach said. “We wanted to give something back.” The faces of both young and old reflected their joy in seeing the gift of Chinese cultural traditions play out before them-a gift well received.

The parade moved slowly to the percussion of drums, cymbal and gong to the final stop of the parade route and the scene of a dramatic ritual. Climbing to the top or a bright red pole, an intrepid lion danced to the delight of the crowd, and was fed traditional greens ...

... Soon after, a banner unfurled like a giant tongue wishing all in attendance, “Happy Lunar New Year!!”

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posted by: smq on February 2, 2014  6:27pm

Great photo essay!! I especially enjoyed learning about the tradition of handing out red envelopes full of money.  Great job, Dave!

posted by: A. Thought on February 2, 2014  7:57pm

So nice to see the diversity of culture that exists in the New Haven area, as evidenced by the many cultural events brought to the public’s eye through David’s articles.  Such festive and colorful costumes adorning the lions in this parade and welcoming in the Chinese Year of the Horse.