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Monday, January 26, 2009

The Year of the Ox

Red Envelopes
(from an internet image)

Happy Lunar New Year
everyone. Today, January 26, is the first day of the year of the Ox. My DH was invited to a New Year celebration by the owner of his favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Hoa. Here is some of what we saw yesterday:

Lettuce, a symbol of prosperity and good fortune, hung over the door of each Asian restaurant in the area.**

I don't know the symbolism of this mask so am calling it "Clown Man."**

This jolly character is a decoratiion inside Pho Hoa.

A lion dancer is visible through the smoke from hundreds of very loud firecrackers.**

Another lion dancer outside the restaurant.**

Having performed in front of Dim Sum restaurant, the dragon dancers take to the street.**

Be sure to click on this image to see the pom poms and coiled wire used as embellishments.**

This little girl was SO excited! Her brother - not so much.**

A very proud papa.**
Pho Hoa is a family owned and operated restaurant. My DH, who spent 13 months in Vietnam, arriving in the middle of Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, has had many long conversations with the father. Following the fall of Saigon, the gentleman was held in a POW camp and tortured for five years before escaping by boat to Malaysia. He came to the United States in 1981.

We watched the Lunar New Year celebration for over an hour that cold day. I've never spent time in the Far East and was fascinated, wanting to learn more about Asian cultures. The internet sources were so interesting.

Lunar New Year is celebrated mostly by Chinese, especially Buddhists and Taoists. Mythology tells the legend of a man-eating dragon, Nian, who terrorized villages once a year, even going after children. The dragon dancing aggressively, loud noises of the firecrackers, drums and cymbals along with the fierce face of the lion (dance) are all to rid the villages of Nian and evil spirits. Tokens and play money are given as gifts in special red envelopes (see image at beginning of this entry) for the New Year. Red is believed to ward off evil spirits, so much so that many Asians paint their window frames and doors red for the New Year.

My DH took lots of photographs that day, many of which will be given to the family at Pho Hoa as a momento. At the end of the day, the mother at the restaurant presented my DH with a red envelope containing a lottery ticket, as well as a beautiful ceremonial tea set. She also would not let us pay for our lunch! Such gracious, gentle people.

My DH holds the ceremonial tea set given to him by the owners of Pho Hoa.

This detail of the tea pot, sitting in its own little saucer, shows an image of a dragon.

Having eaten a delicious Vietnamese meal and consuming copious amounts of hot Jasmine tea, we left feeling the warmth of having shared this amazing day with very special people, now our friends.

Assorted red envelopes in Taipei.

**Photo credit: Bill Guerrant, Copyright 2009

1 comment:

Ann Ferguson said...

What a lovely story, thank you.