Happy New Year!
Ok, well technically Chinese New Year was last weekend, so I’m a week late. However on Saturday I drove down to Butte to participate in their annual Chinese New Year Parade. I’m not sure why they decide to celebrate later than everyone else, but to celebrate the Mai Wah Society of Butte holds an annual Dragon Dance Parade around the streets of uptown Butte. This Dragon was a gift from Taiwan to the Mai Wah Society to celebrate the chinese heritage of many of the mine workers in the Rocky Mountain West. This yearly event is often categorized as the shortest, loudest, and often coldest new year’s celebration around the world. Luckily for us, the cold decided not to join the festivities, so we didn’t freeze while dancing.
Butte has a very interesting history. Known as “The Richest Hill in the World”, the mines of Butte have produced over 2 million in copper, zinc, silver, and other materials. Workers came from all over the world to work in the mines. Watching over the city of Butte is a statue of the Virgin Mary nicknamed “The Lady of the Rockies”, a 90 foot statue that is placed on the mountains 3,500 feet above the city.
The cultures of these miners greatly influenced the city. At one point there was a greater percentage of Irish in Butte than in Ireland, and from what I’ve been told St. Patrick’s Day in Butte is a once in a lifetime experience (another adventure for a later time). Also famous to the city is the Pasty (pronounced Pastee). This softball sized meal gets it’s origins from the Cornish and Welsh miners who came to work in the mines. This huge meal of potatoes and steak bits is wrapped in a pie crust and baked and dipped into gravy as you eat it. Miners would eat this for lunch, as the Pasty was salted enough and wrapped in enough crust to not require refrigeration. I decided to pick up one for lunch. It was way too much food for me, and quite salty for my taste, but I could see why hardworking men would chow down on these as it is full of delicious fatty and stuffing food.
A bunch of us Vista’s volunteered to be a Dragon Dancer (funny how I’m doing all this asian stuff out in the west huh). The Dragon Dance is supposed to scare away bad spirits and bring in good luck for the new year. This year was extra special being the year of the dragon. My coworker Sam was pretty excited about that, as he was born during the year of the Dragon as well. I happened to be born under the lesser reptile of the snake.
We spent half an hour practicing moving the dragon. Allison got to be The Pearl of Wisdom. She had a colored ball on the end of a stick that she twirled around. The dragon is supposed to follow the Pearl, trying to get wisdom.
The other part of the parade involves blessing business who give a monetary donation to the Mai Wah Society. For these business we did a traditional dragon blessing. We bowed in front of the business three times, ran in a circle and than bowed one more time and roared into the place of business. The door of the business are opened at this time, and our roaring is supposed to scare away any evil spirits, allowing good ones to enter and bring good luck to the business in the new year.
We danced from business to business with lots of fireworks in between.We ended up in front of the Mai Wah Society where they set of 10,000 chinese fireworks. Needless to say there were a lot of fireworks that went off.