I get excited when I hear of an event in my area that I have never photographed before. My thought process is even more stimulated when the event is of a culture that I am not very well versed in. The celebration of the Chinese New Year in Philadelphia was one such event. It was to be the “Year of the Dragon” and the SJ meet up group was organizing this venue. It helped me get into the thought process by taking a train into the city and then walking up to Chinatown. As I approached my destination, I could see an arch that stretched from one side of the street to the other. I felt like it was welcoming me into a world and culture very different from mine.
As I meandered through Chinatown, the many signs and unique smells almost made me forget I was still in the city. The “Suns”, a local group of dancers and musicians, were preparing for the parade. They planned to stop at various businesses in the area and offer a blessing for the coming year. There was a brightly colored dragon which was serpentine in its shape and length. To create movement, there were dancers under the dragon that bobbed and weaved from sidewalk to sidewalk. The other elaborately decorated dragons were manipulated by groups of 2 that made their way to designated store fronts throughout the morning. This signaled a whirlwind of choreographed movements that symbolized bestowing a blessing onto the stores. The deafening sound of firecrackers mixed with drums, moved me in a crisscrossing pattern. Crowds were led by the smoke and the undulating progress of the dragon dancers while I attempted to capture the essence of what was happening. Looking around at the people watching this spectacle, I could see wonder and awe in the children’s faces, contrasted by a sense of pride from the older hierarchy.
Whatever way the new year is celebrated around the world, in Chinatown, the “Year of the Dragon” was set to a drum beat and punctuated with a bang. Whether a participant or spectator — just being there and sharing the moment was a blessing in itself.