25 juillet 2024

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Parisian associations celebrated the new lunar year dedicated to the Wooden Dragon this year. It started on February 10 and will end in January 2025.

Parisian associations celebrated the new lunar year dedicated to the Wooden Dragon this year. It started on February 10 and will end in January 2025.

The festivities began with a grand parade on the Champs Elysées on Sunday February 4. It was then the Marais district on the 10th, followed by Belleville on the 13th, ending with the most spectacular Chinatown Paris, in the 13th arrondissement, on February 18. This parade, organized by the Paris Lion Sport association, presented 5 lions and 2 dragons and wandered from 2 p.m. through the streets of the neighborhood.

Every year, nearly 200,000 people participate in this traditional festival which combines shimmering costumes, floats, dragon and lion dances. According to an association official, the parade has existed for 11 years. Paris Lion Sport, teaches lion and dragon dance. It welcomes around fifty people, with an average age ranging from 10 to 40 years old, who train regularly and rigorously all year round in the 13th arrondissement, twice a week. This event combines sport, tradition and culture.

The parade of February 18, where strolling and acrobatics mixed, brought together numerous Chinese associations from Ile-de-France and around fifty others such as those of the Cantonese or the Teochow (population established in the east of Canton and forming mainly the diaspora across the world).

During the challenge which lasted almost 2 hours, 7 people maneuvered the dragon which measures around ten meters long. The head, for its part, weighs 8 kilos and requires 2 people to move it. This is why the exercise uses many people so that they can take turns during the course.

These dances are performed to drive away evil spirits and bring happiness and prosperity for the new year. This dance is done for the Chinese New Year but also to liven up business openings, weddings or festivals in summer. In Asia, it is considered a sport, there are even international competitions. The events are graded on the style of the lion, the synchronization between the lion and the music and the difficulty of the acrobatics and jumps. Last year, the Paris Lion Sport association came in 4th place (out of 22) during its participation in a competition in Malaysia. A new participation is planned this year.

But who is this dragon, also called Nian in Chinese mythology?

In folklore, it is an evil animal with the head of a lion and the body of a bull whose legend is linked to the Chinese New Year. It is likened to a flat-faced lion with the body of a dog and prominent incisors. For others, it is an elephant with 2 long horns and many sharp teeth to attack its prey. It is called “Nian”.

Every year, on the night of the 2nd full moon after the winter solstice, the Nian came down from his home in the mountains to harass the people and eat their chickens and children., which is why the villagers would flee their homes to join the forest and escape its wrath. However, the beast feared certain things because, living at the bottom of the sea most of the time, it only returned to land on the last day of the lunar year to eat humans and livestock. The “nian” is afraid of the color red, loud noises and fire. To scare him, red paper decorations are stuck to doors, lanterns are burned all night and firecrackers are lit. To get rid of them, people make loud noises (firecrackers that have replaced crackling bamboo) and use red for lanterns while writing on scrolls that they hang on doors and windows to keep Nian from entering.

Since then, the New Year has become a very important celebration for several thousand years. It involves constant habits and customs like cleaning the house thoroughly, getting rid of old things and dust. By arranging new things, we let all the unhappiness go away, everyone wanting the best possible. It’s the arrival of spring.

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