Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Gung hay fat choi!

Yes, yes. Gung hay fat choi!

Its the year of the pig. And not the ordinary pig, the golden pig. In fact, a golden fire pig .... apparently the dicotomy that something golden might melt in fire, leaving the pile of gold colored metallic pig juice ... an incredible thing, as the year of the golden pig only occurs once every 600 years, and insures that every baby born this year will experience a prosporous and wealthy life. This idea is incredibly popular, so much so that Korea is expecting this legend to solve one of their national crises, as the Koreans is expect to have a 10% increase in birth rate this year, which is apparently much needed as its birth rate is extremely low (

You can learn more about this at the offcial website,

To celebrate this most joyous new year, I planned on attending the Chinese New Year festivities in Chinatown last Sunday afternoon. Aviva and I had been down there the weekend before, shot off some gigantic fireworks, watched crazy chinese ladies run out into traffic chasing good luck parachutes than came out of the fire crackers and generally reveled in the crazy joy that typified the throng of smiling people and frustrated police officers filling the streets and stopping traffic. We saw rather first hand (although I ended up crushed up against someone facing the wrong direction) a dragon dance up the street and bless the different stores, and a little boy hang a lucky bundle of lettuce from the awning on his storefront. Then we wandered about and looked at shoes and sex toys and had really good chinese food with terrible service at the Golden Dragon Restuarant.

Having had a blast the previous weekend, I was excited to go back see some more dancing dragons. I met my friend Aimee on the subway at 86th and Lexington and in no time we were off at Canal street, passing the dragon fighters and crushed into the throng of people heading up Mott
. A with the weekend before there were tons of paper fireworks exploding all around, although unlike the previous week there was not enough snow to make up huge puddles of liquid paper. At Mulberry and Bayard (I think, certainly at some intersection right around there) there was a stage set up, and this seemed to be the epicenter of the New Years festivities. Different people kept getting up on stage and shouting about the various activities that were occurring, and after the first pass, during which explored the streets behind the stage and saw lots of delighted children chasing fireworks and playing with toy dragons, we returned to the stage.

Just in time to hear that there were pig races starting in 3 minutes on Hester Street. This is quite a draw so we hustled down to Hester, only to realize that a number of better informed people had already had this idea and that we couldn't really see any of the pigs. I could see the cages and Aimee, who is on the shy side of 5'3", really had to settle for listening to the squeals.

So we decided to get some food, as I had seen various buns as I was walking around and was suddenly rather hungy. We struck out twice in stores that sold only dried fish parts and noise makers, then found a chinese market where the real struggle was not understanding the signs or communicating with the non-English speaking staff, but actually moving in any direction other than the constant push of people out the back of the store. After buying a bun, eating it while waiting 20 minutes for Aimee to get to a register to buy sushi, immediately realizing I was hungry as she came out and going back in for another less rapid foray into the world of mystery buns, I ended up eating a total of 3 white fluffy buns filled with unkonwn meaty materials, although I think one was pork butt but I am not sure.

Following this unique culinary experience, we returned to the stage in time to hear a uniquely untalented singer, Sun May May or something, belt out something that would have starred on the first episode of American Idol, you know, the one where they show all the worst acts from that year. I think I must have been alone this opinion though, as the crowd seemed to be loving it ... even the dragons were dancing.

The group after her was actually great, the Staten Island Lion Dancers, who were really a group of girls and a guy in purple sweaters with cymbals banging rythmically while two guys dressed up in an elborate liion costume put on a great show. The lion jumped and spun, blinked its eyes and wiggled its ears and bent down to take the prayers of the kids in the audience. At one point the guy moving the lions front section hung off the shoulders of the back guy and spun in a circle, which was very impressive, and later he stood on the back guys shoulders to retrieve the lucky lettuce (a symbol of prosperity and good fortune) so that he could spit peices of it out into the crowd. Aimee caught one, signifying the fortunate year she has ahead of her.

The Lion dance was great and we were pumped for the next act, but it turned out the Sun May May was back by popular demand, popular meaning the announcer really liked her, as the crowd thinned a bit when she came back out, and thinned more when she started singing the same song as before. So having had enough of the crowds and being afraid of Sun May May, we made our way back to the subway, stopping only to pick up a turtle for Aimee and a golden pig for Avivas friend and settled in for the long ride back home.

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