The see and be seen free family event across the Asian District in Oklahoma City Saturday, February 21 was the Chinese New Year of 2015. Small and large shops and restaurants sponsor this event, which in Buddhist Tradition calls forward prosperity.
This article looks at OKC Asian District Chinese New Year 2015 over three shopping areas. Shop owners fund the reinactment of the prosperity ritual in whole or in part, blessing their individual property. A few traits of the ritual are reliable, but not all blessing includes all actions.
The Buddhist Youth Association comes in school busses, and there are multiple skill levels of dancers and musicians. The dancing under the dragon costume is VERY rigorous, and teams of youth change places about every 3 minutes. There is a hanging gong, and a large rolling kettle drum. Large hand held cymbals as well.
Typically, there are at least two, perhaps three dragons who dance towards the shop owner and the door of the shop. These are approached with masked Buddha dancers in silk robes, carrying hand fans… all with big artificial bellies. Fireworks are set off in long strands at intervals. The hanging ones are about 10 feet long. The rolls are 100 feet long. Each are about 10 inches wide. These fireworks are always solid red, and the paper silt from the detonated units will remain here and there for weeks, due to Oklahoma high winds.
The choice about the choreography is up to the shop owner. Some want the dragons and Buddhas to dance outside, some come inside. The dance at one shop included throwing paper money for the dragons to eat. Another shop, included the dragon JUMPING UP in the air to retrieve a money bundle and a bok choy from hanging ribbons… much like mistletoe above each entrance of the property. This was somewhere between watching University grade cheerleaders and a show at Seaworld, as this older group of youth stood on shoulders to walk a fair distance in this dragon costume, while dancing, while lunging. Again, all the while the Buddhas dance, and fan the dragons. And the fireworks explode for impressive clouds of smoke and NOISE.
Dragons are a composite animal made of many parts of other animals, per folklore they can bring many good things and provide protection, inspiration and opportunity. Mythical creatures are woven into celebrations of all Chinese New Year celebrations. Buddha is responsible for naming the years on the Lunar calendar after animals. 2015 is the Year of the Goat. Red, coins or bills, dragons, fireworks and Buddha are common themes rooted in this historic process. The mix is the fun.
The richness of these contributions of live cultural opportunities is borne of Vietnamese refugees settling in Oklahoma City after the Vietnam War, in the early 1970’s. So many other ethnic groups have come to revitalize and repopulate areas which were sleepy in Oklahoma City, such as this intown historic neighborhood of 1920’s and 1930’s bungalows, primarily on the arm of the stabilizing achievements of the Vietnamese. The Asian District proudly continues to expand opportunities for authentic tastes, sounds, sights and smells of long held traditions many here see for the first time. The Asian District a hospitable, generous and kindly neighbor every day.
Many attendees brought both young and old for this event. A few children were dressed in the heavily embroidered brightly colored silk holiday outfits, which are often worn both for core Asian holidays, and for Christian holidays. Some children carried the red traditional cards with money, or snacked on specialty buns peanut sesame buns, steamed red bean dumplings or Asian candy, such as Boton Rice Candy.
The students cycled through various locations in the area, with heavy performances at the Super Cao Nguyen Market, hosting roughly every 30 minutes.