Chinese New Year at Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum

The Joyful Lion Dance at the Chinese New Year Celebration.  Photo taken by Marie Silfer

The Joyful Lion Dance at the Chinese New Year Celebration. Photo taken by Marie Silfer

Happy New Year – the Year of the Horse!  The Chinese New Year is China’s biggest holiday and falls between January 30th and February 20th.  Every year the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum hosts a free Chinese New Year celebration.

The festival started with the Joyful Lion Dance.  The Chinese lion represents strength, wisdom, and good luck.  The lion is made up of two “dancers” who demonstrate stylized movements to the beat of drums and cymbals.  At one point in the dance the lion “eats” lettuce and an orange and tangerine that is laid out for him.  It then dances around the room and throws the lettuce and fruit out from its mouth at people.  If it is thrown at you it is a symbol of good luck!  We were lucky enough to get some lettuce thrown our way.

After the dance, we moved about the museum freely reading wall exhibits about the history of the Chinese New Year, learned what the twelve animal signs meant for each year (2014 is the year of the Horse), and other Chinese cultural facts like the celebration usually lasts 15 days, that some believe  it is bad luck to wash your hair on the New Year because you could wash away your good luck, and that the second day of the celebration is believed to be the birthday of all dogs!

Kelly, my daughter, and I were lucky to have our friend Marie and her daughter, Molly, join us.  There were many activities located around the museum for us to enjoy: the girls got their faces painted with dragons and horses, had their names written in Chinese (where we learned that even though Marie and Molly’s name both started with “M” the Chinese symbols (letters) used to start their names were different because of the different sounds “Ma” and “Mo” made!), cut out a paper Chinese symbol, attempted to fold an origami paper crane, made paper lanterns, colored masks of dragons and horses, and made a Year of the Horse scroll.

We also sampled Chinese candy (which the girls found odd as they tasted like coconut, ginger, or salty), and Chinese Good Luck New Year cake (which we decided was the consistency of silly putty but had no real taste – the card describing it said that the Good Luck cake tradition was similar to the United States tradition of Fruit Cake), We also got lessons on how to eat Chinese noodles with chop sticks and drank green tea with rock sugar.  Of course we topped it off with a fortune cookie.

The New Year wouldn’t be complete without the Dragon Dance!  The dragon is made up of many people and is similar to the lion dance.  The dragon came up from the beach (the Museum is located right across from the beach in Myrtle Beach) and danced on the lawn to the beat of drums and cymbals.  The dragon is associated with strength, good fortune, wisdom, and longevity.  It is believed that the longer the dragon, the more luck it will bring to the community.

Eric Wagner of Horry Georgetown Technical College sculpts ice into a horse head for the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Horse! Photo taken by Marie Silfer

Eric Wagner of Horry Georgetown Technical College sculpts ice into a horse head for the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Horse! Photo taken by Marie Silfer

Our last stop was the bottom floor of the museum where it is open-air and a block of ice was on display.  Eric Wagner, from Horry Georgetown Technical College, sculpted the block of ice into the head of a horse!  He used an ice pick to sketch his design in the ice surface and then turned on his chain saw and began shaping it.  Snow shot out from the block of ice as he went and ice chunks fell.  He created an amazing 3D horse head!

The Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum hosts various free events throughout the year as well as kids’ art classes and art exhibits.  They host the Chinese New Year every year.  You can also become a member of the museum for $50 for an individual or $75 for a family.

Cost: The Chinese New Year event was free

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