02/08/2009 105 °F
Happy New Year (in Chinese)! Sydney is celebrating the Year of the Ox. It was the last weekend of the Chinese New Year celebration, so Dawn and I went down to Darling Harbor to watch the dragon boat races.
The Chinese New Year symbolizes many of the same things as the western new year. It is a chance to start fresh and look forward to peace and prosperity in the coming year. The Chinese New Year is celebrated by families coming together and sharing meals, decorating (hanging lanterns and using the color red liberally), and giving packets of money to the younger family members.
Sydney put together a 3 week celebration for the Chinese New Year. This year, Australia Day and the Chinese New Year fell on the same day, January 26th. We missed the first night because of the Australia Day party, and then we were in Fiji for the big parade. There was no way I was going to miss out on all the festivities, we had one last chance. So after church Dawn and I headed down to check out the final event, the dragon boat races.
Dragon boats look like long and narrow canoes. The boat is propelled by people paddling (not rowing) in a synchronized movement. There are around 20 paddlers, a person in the rear steering (like on a white water raft), and one drummer keeping everyone in rhythm. The boats were decorated with dragon heads at the front and dragon tails at the back. A large drum was strapped towards the front of the boat for the drummer to use.
There were different classes of races at the Sydney Dragon Boat races. There was a junior class, corporate teams, and competitive teams. There was not a monetary prize, just something fun for people to do together. Heats were run every 10 minutes, so the action was non-stop for 2 days. The racers started in the middle of Darling Harbor and frantically raced towards the spectator end of the harbor. An announcer called out the winners and the winning boat would take a victory lap as the crowd congratulated them with applause.
The specific races we saw had to do with breast cancer awareness. All the racers were survivors of breast cancer and teams had come from every major city in Australia. After the final heat, the boats picked up additional cancer survivors and met in the middle of the harbor to perform the Flower Ceremony. Originating in Canada, the Flower Ceremony is a way for everyone to remember those who were lost to breast cancer (it was especially touching with the recent passing of Kay Yow). The boats all linked together and as the crowd observed a moment of silence, flowers were dumped in the water for those that had been lost.
Figuring we had seen enough boat races, Dawn and I wandered through the rest of the Chinese Peace Garden towards Chinatown. There were representations of all the animal zodiacs. The dragon, dog, ram, cock, etc were all present. After snapping a picture with the ox, Dawn and I moved further into the park. I got really excited, before us was the longest dragon I had ever seen.
A ceremony was taking place, so I patiently waited for the performance to begin. Half of the ceremony was in Chinese, but I did pick up that this was the longest performing dragon in the southern hemisphere. We didn't have to wait too long, after a few minutes the music started and the dragon started its dance. Dawn caught part of it on video. Watch at the end of the video, three little kids have a dragon of their own that dances next to the big dragon.
Dawn was starting to get sunburnt, so we made our way back home. We had plans to go snorkeling at Clovelly Beach, and since it was one of the hottest days all year, I couldn't wait to get in the water.