Houstonians celebrate culture and prosperity in the Lunar New Year

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- The unmistakable sounds of the drums and cymbals, the colorful dancing lions and the thrilled faces of little children. Those are just some of the indications that the Lunar New Year celebration is upon us.

"We love to promote our culture and participate," said Allen Lee of Lee's Gold Dragons, a lion and dragon dance troupe based in Houston. "Lion dance is like a martial art, something we just keep doing and passing on to future generations."

Lee's lion dance troupe is always in demand during the Lunar New Year festival season. In 2016, the New Year falls on a Monday. At local banks, the lions are said to ward off evil spirits and help the banks be successful all year long. Patrons put a few dollars in red envelopes and "feed" the money to the lions, which symbolizes prosperity and good luck. These days, the Lunar New Year celebrations extend beyond the traditional Chinese and Vietnamese communities in Houston.

At the Awty International School, students from all backgrounds participated in its Lunar New Year showcase. The younger children performed nursery songs in Chinese, decked out in masks that were painted like little monkeys, to celebrate the Year of the Monkey. Teenage students at Awty tried their hands at skits in Chinese, and even a few rock songs popular right now in China.

"Chinese New Year is probably the most important celebration of the year," said Jason Rehd, a junior who is studying Chinese in school. "It's a new beginning and the chance for fortune and happiness for new year."

Students say they found the chance to learn about the year of the monkey and new year customs especially interesting, precisely because many of the students are learning Chinese every day during their regular school hours.

"We absolutely believe the school the students inhabit now and the one they will move into is global, whether they ever leave Houston or travel the whole world," said Head of School Lisa Darling.

Celebrations like Lion dancing, large family meals, and plenty of activities will continue throughout the Houston community for two more weeks. So don't be surprised if you run into some dragons or lions dancing somewhere this weekend.
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