Sunday, February 15, 2009

Philadelphia (Year of the Ox Parade)

On Feb 1, we tried to see the Chinese New Years Parade, but learned that budget cuts forced it to be cancelled so when we heard it was on again, we tenuously went to the city. The backup plan was to visit the Art Museum.

As we approached Chinatown, you could hear a massive drum beat. A few minutes later, the police closed Race St. and the parade was about to start. People gathered around the small troop of dragon, and masked participants.

Americans' impression of a parade is to stand along the street and watch a procession of marchers go by. The Chinese Parade is more like a scramble from one building entrance to another where the perform a symbolic ritual.

The leader surveyed the buildings and shouted at the paraders to follow him to the nearest hanging stringer of fire crackers. The crowd surrounded the paraders and were thrilled by dancing exhibitions and the 500 fire cracker finales.

Where minutes before no buildings had fire crackers showing, now many buildings displayed them. One even hung his fire crackers out of a 2nd story window via a string on a pole. Restaurants, stores, offices all wanted a ceremonial good luck dance for their businesses.

This went on for a couple of hours.

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