February 2nd was not really the best day for us to begin our commitment to studying culture outside of our travels.  For starters, it was my birthday, I am a groundhog baby! When your birthday falls on a Saturday, you need to take advantage of it and enjoy the entire day.  Thus, I wanted to celebrate with the boys earlier in the day, so Rob and I could celebrate with our friends that night. To make the day even busier, the boys had a basketball game that morning.  Side note – they each scored their first ever basket (and score in any organized sport) that morning – best birthday present ever!

After the game and celebratory breakfast, we made the 45-minute drive to south-east Charlotte to celebrate Lunar New Year at The Peaceful Dragon martial arts studio.  I could not find a celebration closer to us, so we decided to make the most of the drive by participating in a ‘The Greatest Showman” family sing along.

When we arrived, I was a bit overwhelmed by the scene.  The parking lot there and across the street was completely full.  I was able to find a parking space across the street in the back of the lot, I unloaded the boys, then I was informed that the parking lot was that of a church and even though they had no need for the spaces that day, they were going to start towing cars.  So, I loaded the boys back up in the car, and we parked a couple of miles away at an elementary school then waited in a line to be taken back to the studio via a shuttle they provided.

I know better than to show up later during an event like this, but we had so much going on that morning (plus I had forgotten my purse and had to go back home before heading to the event) that we did not have a choice.  The sheer number of people present indicates how many people are craving exposure to different cultures which was really exciting for me! I was also very appreciative that the event was being used as a fundraiser for Loaves & Fishes, a food pantry providing nutritionally balanced food to families in need throughout the Charlotte area.  Loaves & Fishes holds a special place in my heart because they work directly with the families at Refugee Support Services of the Carolinas, a nonprofit that I work with directly.  The Peaceful Dragon collected non-perishable foods or a $5 donation for each family that attended the event.

The studio was decorated in red and gold, the colors for wealth and luck.  

I really had no idea what to expect at this event, but the one thing I knew we would see was The Dragon and Lion Dances.  

We got there right in time to witness both dances being performed, although we had to squeeze into the last few available spaces.  Both of the dances are said to scare away evil spirits and bad luck, bringing good luck instead. The difference between the two dances is that The Dragon Dance is performed by many dancers, while the Lion Dance is performed by two acrobatic dancers.  

https://youtu.be/pZdiFPKz3KI  

During the lion dance, the dancers threw out cabbage and if you caught it, it means you will have good luck in the new year.  Lucky us!

We watched martial arts demonstrations that the boys really enjoyed.  

There were also fun activities for younger kids, like a bounce house, temporary tattoos, balloon animals, and games.  

Our afternoon at The Peaceful Dragon was a great start to our Lunar New Year celebration.  

The actual new year was February 5th, so we continued our lesson by reading books about the holiday. We learned about the origins of the holiday. A dragon was tormenting a village and was finally scared away by bright colors and loud noises.  To celebrate the defeat of the dragon and bad luck, each New Year is celebrated with brightly colored decorations and fireworks.

I also used the holiday to organize a craft for the boys.  My mind does not naturally think of craft ideas, so I used Pinterest for some inspiration.  We created Paper Plate Hand fans from thepinterestedparent.com

and Paper Plate Dragon Twirlers from https://www.redtedart.com/paper-plate-dragon-twirler/

At the same time that I was making these efforts, the boys’ preschool was also celebrating the Lunar New Year with lessons on the phases of the moon and how the holiday is celebrated.  

Next year when the boys are a little older, we will attempt writing couplets, two-line poems wishing good luck for the new year.  We will also attempt to sweep away bad luck before The Lunar New Year as this is part of the custom. Our constant renovations have created a very dusty house that was not ready for the new year!  A nice idea for children to join in the spirit of Chinese New Year found in the book “Chinese New Year (Holidays and Celebrations)” is a child making a new start by cleaning his or her room, giving old toys away, and visiting with friends he or she has not seen for a while.  

Chinese New Year begins on the first new moon of the year and is a celebration of the upcoming Spring, a time for a fresh start and new beginning.   This event was our first intentional effort at celebrating culture for our travel and culture website, so we too were celebrating a new beginning. In Chinese culture, pigs are the symbol of wealth.  I am hopeful that The Year of the Pig brings our site wealth, not in a financial sense, but wealth in content, experiences, followers, and engagement.