Chinese New Year

 Chinese New Year is loud. I love Chinese New Year.

Last minute we decided to go to Philadelphia's Chinese New Year celebration. We lived in Philadelphia for a year and a half, so it was easy to get around and find parking. We were probably aided by the football game keeping many home. Unlike NYC's New Year, the Philly parade roams about - three lion dancers from The Suns perform in front of a Vietnamese restaurant, three in front of a beauty shop. The crowd follows.

The 'crowd control' are members of The Suns, who where golden hooded sweatshirts and carry bamboo staffs. They hold them horizontally, making a mobile fence, as the lion dancers and drummers and cymbal players go from store to store. Strips of firecrackers hang from shop awnings. They're lit as the lion dancers move about. As they dance, they grab and eat lettuce that also hangs from the shops' awnings.

Kids are up on parents' shoulders. Firecracker spit smoke, red paper and bits of debris. One lands on the absolute center of the crown of my head. I'm exhilarated. An auspicious sign, indeed.

Barbecue platter at Vietnam restaurant

After lunch at Vietnam, an old favorite restaurant, from our Philly days, we catch the final two forms of a kung fu academy that perform at the intersection of 10th and Arch, or so. We arrive in time for the masters, it seems. One performs a bo (staff) form, and the final demonstrates double broad sword form.

Their chi is incredible, a sensory experience that I can feel though I can see just their upper bodies. The crowd blocks their footwork. The staff vibrates with each thrust. From my shoulders, I can hear Beren repeat, "Let's go inside the circle. Let's go inside the circle." I agree. I want to jump in the circle, too, and feel the chi even more vibrantly.

I miss my kung fu class terribly. We attend these events and are inspired to continue our practice at home, awaiting our return to class. I think this is the only aspect of my life, pre-motherhood, that I mourn. The tradition of new year warns against negative words, so I will leave it there.

We wandered, following the lion dancers. We ended up in the front row as a dozen or more ribbons of firecrackers were laid across the street. All other firecrackers had just been a few feet long, these spanned the sidewalks and street. "This will be loud," we agreed.

The firecrackers were lit, acrid smoke filled the air. The lion dancers pranced upon the smoke and sparks. A masked buddha fanned the smoke. It was so loud, I could feel it.

Goodbye, bad spirits of last year. May this year be prosperous and good. Gung Hay Fat Choy.