What do you do when you see dragons and lions, wriggling and dancing to the beat of oriental drums? We don’t know either, but when we spotted them at Ongpin Street in Binondo, we had fun chasing them.
Dragon and lion dance parades, as it is performed on Chinese New Year in Chinatowns around the world, has a hint of religion, a little bit of folklore and a whole lot of mardi gras-type of celebration.
In Chinese tradition, the dragon is a symbol of great power and dignity. It has been the symbol of imperial authority that emperors of ancient China considered themselves as dragons. The dragon dance is usually accompanied by a pair of lions, which according to Buddhist tradition, the lions were gifts from the gods to protect human kind from all forms of evil.
In dragon and lion dance parades, the mythical creatures are animated by dancers who perform intricate movements and well-rehearsed choreography while under the colorful body and decorated head of the lions and while waltzing the poles holding the dragon’s head and slender body.
In Binondo, establishments hang the ang paos, small red envelopes that are filled with luck money above the entrance door to be plucked by dancing lions. This offering is believed to be reciprocated with prosperity and abundance.
The dancing dragons and lions are believed to ward off bad spirits and bring forth happiness and luck. They are the traditional highlights in all major Chinese festivals. In Binondo, it makes Chinese New Year a grand street extravaganza.