Gung Hay Fat Choy – Chuc Mung Nam Moi

Wah Lum Lion Dance
This picture is a couple years old, but I love the expression of the red and gold lion.

February 19th was the Lunar New Year. The year of the Ram/Sheep/Goat (depending on who you ask). The Orlando Business Journal even did a piece on it.

As is normal, my kung fu temple was out and about spreading the cheer with lion dances, kung fu demonstrations and lots of firecrackers. As is normal, I took part in the celebrations.
There were more shows than I was able to take part in (damned work responsibilities and my annoying work ethic). However, I was able to attend the main day and the shows on the weekend.

The main day, Thursday, started with all of us meeting up at the Wah Lum Temple bright and early at 07:30. We all pay our respects to our kung fu ancestors. Then we perform a lion dance to bless the Temple, the Fit Center and the Cultural Center. I’m usually one of the Buddhas with the lions for this portion of the day.

After we finish the blessing of the temple, we head off to a strip of downtown that’s predominately Asian businesses. There’s a whole string of them right next to each other. So you’ll see us perform at one store and immediately run to a nearby store and do it all over again. At all the stores, we do a lion dance. Some of the stores we do kung fu demonstrations. Some of the stores have us light off strings of firecrackers. There are a couple of stores where the owners are personal friends with the Chan family (the folks behind Wah Lum Kung Fu) and will participate in the show.

After a couple of hours on the strip, we run back to the cars and head off to another store elsewhere around town and do it all again. Then it’s off to another store. Then another. Etcetera.

The main day usually wraps up with the last show over around 21:00. We head back to the temple and we’re offered dinner (usually a gift from one of the restaurants that we performed at that evening).

All said and done, it’s about a 15 hour day from leaving the house to returning home. Exhausting is a bit of an understatement. However, it’s an amazing form of tired. You find your breathing keeping cadence with the drum line as you fade into unconsciousness. A well deserved sleep.

The weekends varies from year to year. It could be anywhere from a half dozen shows to 2 dozen shows with possibly a parade thrown in there too. This year was a happy medium.

You shake hands with many people. You are hugged by a few grateful store owners and their family. You are given hung bao (envelopes that are bright red with gold designs or elaborate pictures of Buddhas, cherry blossoms, or other icons of peace/prosperity) containing some treasure (fortunes/money/gift cards/etc). If you are in the lion or are the Buddha, you wind up posing for pictures with so many people. You say “Gung Hay Fat Choy” and “Chuc Mung Nam Moi” the Chinese and Vietnamese for “have a happy and prosperous new year” so much that you find yourself almost saying it every time you part paths with someone for days afterwards. There’s an infectious sense of merriment that you ride through the day in a haze of happiness. That haze tends to carry over for a few days.

I’m looking forward to what the new year has to offer.

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