Gung Hay Fat Choy! South Philadelphia kicked off the Year of the Black Water Snake, Sunday February 10, 2013. The Snake, the 6th sign of the Chinese zodiac marks the beginning of the Fire Cycle and represents wealth and wisdom. Washington Avenue was noisy with fire crackers, pounding drums and banging gongs. “All the noise is to scare off the evil spirits,” said Asian community leader and interpreter, Van Tsang. Tsang, 55, who works for Universal Creighton Charter School was recently honored buy her school as a Spotlight Employee and by Row Home Magazine as a Salute to Service winner. “People who were born in the year of the snake are intelligent and fascinated with all beautiful things in life.” Part of the tradition is to have dance troupes visit shops in the Asian community. The Nan Phuong Lion Dance Group were performing for several hours on the avenue. Costumed dancers, martial artists and musicians appeared at many shops, stores and restaurants to bring good luck and fortune to the businesses. Before the dancers arrived at the destination, tall poles decorated with bunches of lettuce and greens, strings of fire crackers and red envelopes filled with money, were set out in from of the door. Reveler Dinh Tran and his son Dan, who traveled from Lancaster PA, explained that “the lions dance and approach the green vegetables to eat them then cough them up. Next the red envelopes are eaten up.” Brand new clothing and shoes are also part of the tradition.”Everybody wants to start the new year fresh and new,” said Tsang. “Also foods are importantant. North China families make dumplings that represent family wealth. For instance a shrimp filling means that the family has money whereas a poorer family might just have a filling of vegetables. In South China, new year cakes are made of sticky rice. They’re steamed with a sweet filling. They’re eaten in anticipation of a sweet year.” If you fear snakes, wear a monkey pendant. A monkey is the only animal who knows how to deal with and handle the snake.
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