Amidst the flurry of confetti and the “pop!” of firecrackers, a small, decorated cart came into view for the thousands crowded along either side of North Broadway Street.
Men and women dressed in silk robes pushed the cart as photographers rushed into the street to get a closer look. Resting underneath an awning in the center of the cart clucking and jerking its head in every direction sat Chico—a humble, four year old rooster and symbol of the commencement of the Chinese New Year.
2017 marks the Year of the Rooster in the 12-year Chinese Zodiac cycle (www.chinahighlights.com). Though Saturday, Jan. 28 was the official date of the Chinese Lunar New Year, Los Angeles’ Chinatown celebrated the annual Golden Dragon Parade one week later on Feb. 4.
The Golden Dragon Parade is steeped in 118 years of tradition. It grew out of the La Fiesta de Los Angeles, a multicultural celebration first held in 1894, where Chinese Americans danced beneath colorful dragons along the streets. Now, the Golden Dragon Parade is presented through the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and continues to serve as a creative and interactive celebration of the Lunar Year.
The official parade website states that it hopes to be “a rich and diverse experience for Angelenos of all ages and ethnicities.” Alexis, a young, caucasian women and one of the 110,000 spectators, has been attending the Golden Dragon Parade for ten years. “I go to all the major cultural events. It’s what makes this city,” Alexis said.
Feb. 4 was a particularly busy Saturday in downtown Los Angeles. Major protests and the Persian New Year celebration competed with the Golden Dragon parade, drawing away some of the attention it may have received otherwise.
However, that didn’t stop first time parade goers Andrew and Rich. They were dressed in Asian conical hats, commonly known as “rice hats,” which they purchased from a vendor at the event.
“I didn’t just buy it for the novelty—I work outside a lot, and I will actually get use out of it,” Andrew said.
Members of the Los Angeles County Police Department signaled the start of the parade, riding in formation on motorcycles up and down Broadway Street. They waved to onlookers and attempted wheelies as they drove through a swirling tornado of confetti.
The array of dancing dragons was a parade highlight for adults and children alike; police had to usher back crowd members who inadvertently trickled into the street to get a better view.
Teams performed the dragon dances by using poles to control the underbelly of the dragon. Children stood and waved their hands to get the dragons’ attention, and the dragons stopped in front of individual audience members, swayed their head up and down, and then danced away across the street.
Dragons have a long history of representing luck and good fortune in Chinese culture. Dragon dance spread throughout China following the Han Dynasty, when emperors used the dragon as an emblem of imperial authority (www.gundkwok.org).
The size and length of the dragons used in Chinese New Year parades around the world varies depending on the human power and resources available. However, it is traditionally believed that the longer the dragon in the dance, the more luck it will bring. The Golden Dragon Parade featured dragons of varying sizes, and a range of tall adults and short children maneuvered them.
The parade also featured decorated cars and banners from organizations such as the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California and the Chinese Chamber of Commerce as well as performances by many local bands.
According to ancient Chinese astrology, the year of one’s birth sign is their most unlucky year in the 12-year calendar cycle. So, if you happen to share “Rooster year” status with Donny Osmond, Martin Luther King III, and Hans Zimmer (who will all be 60 this year), you need just make it through until next January: the next unlucky year of the Rooster won’t occur again until 2029.
photos contributed by author, Allie Kuroff