By Brendan Miller on January 24, 2024.
With a loud beat of the drum the Medicine Hat Public Library is getting set to celebrate the Chinese New Year by welcoming a traditional lion dance performance.
Also known as the Lunar new year, the Chinese New Year falls on Feb. 10 and will celebrate the Year of the Dragon.
Eight lion dancers from the Jing Wo Cultural Association in Calgary are planning to bring their loud and colourful performance to Medicine Hat on Feb. 4.
“Our mission statement and our main goal no matter what is to preserve the Chinese culture through lion dance, and to keep passing on these traditions, rituals and practices to the next generation. So for us, coming down to Medicine Hat is a big opportunity to expose this culture through lion dance,” says Brandon Mah, vice president of the Jing Wo Cultural Association and lion dancer.
A lion dance sees two dancers come together to make the illusion of a lion or dragon under a large colourful costume while dancing to symbols, a gong and the beat of a drum. The dance itself is said to date back hundreds of years.
Mah says the drum represents the heart beat of the lion, which is said to be a strong and powerful creature in Chinese culture.
“So if the lion’s a little more energetic, the drum is faster or louder, and then more curious, you’ll have wider drum and the cymbals and the gong kind of accompany that drum to give it that noise level to it,”
Performances, loud nosies and firecrackers set off during the celebrations are used to ward away evil spirits and bad luck.
“The lion performs to usher in the good luck and the good fortune but also to ward away those evil spirits and bad luck. So that’s why we perform the dance itself,” says Mah.
Out of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals the dragon is said to be the strongest. In Chinese culture people born in the Year of the Dragon are said to have a strong sense of individuality and a desire for freedom.
“Some characteristics with the Year of the Dragon, there’s a lot of strength and power, good fortune, confidence, independence, and people who are born within a Year of the Dragon, they are considered to have a lot of energy and charisma that attract success and opportunities,” says Mah. “The dragon is also known to have this sort of protective energy, it’s a guardian. So in Chinese culture the dragon is seen as a symbol of protection.”
The celebration will also include fun activities and provide those in attendance a taste of Chinese culture including a chance to try calligraphy.
The Chinese New Year celebration runs Feb. 4 beginning at 2 p.m in the Honor Currie Room at the Public Library and is open to the public.
Editors note: An earlier version fo the story misspelled Brandon Mah’s name as Marshall.