Year of the Rat Spurs Dance and Drums in the Potomac Library

Year of the Rat Spurs Dance and Drums in the Potomac Library

Quiet time was put on hold for the celebration.

The costumes were colorful at the Potomac Library.

The costumes were colorful at the Potomac Library. Photo contributed

Welcome to 4718, the Year of the Rat, according to the Chinese Calendar.

The New Year, which started Jan. 25, was celebrated Feb. 1 at the Potomac Library with a Lion Dance, drums, music, dancing and a calligraphy demonstration.

The purpose of the morning’s celebration was to promote Chinese cultural traditions, according to Michael Wu, executive director of Choy Wu Lion Dance Troupe from Fairfax, Virginia.

“The ancient myth of the Lion Dance is that a creature comes from the mountain [to take away] the bad luck people earned throughout the year – the negative energy,” Wu said. “On the first day of the year you want to drive that energy away. On the first day of the year you want to celebrate and be happy.”

Another story Wu told was that the monster came into the villages to terrorize the residents and destroy their belongings, causing the people to flee to the mountains. When one resident suggested they frighten the monster by creating a monster of their own and banging pots and pans, their success started the tradition of the noisy Lion Dance.

As the lions danced through the library, weaving between shelves of books, stopping to surprise readers and little children attracted by their colorful costumes, the sound of drums echoed throughout.

“It is one day you can be noisy in the library,” Wu said.

Sisters Emily, 7, and Katie, 5, who were with their mother Carolyn for the celebration said the dragon dance was their favorite of the presentations.

“It was very educational, their mother said. “It was great to be exposed to a new culture.”

Finally, the lions made their way to the meeting room and settled down, the dance troupe members left for other activities.

“This time of year is our busiest,” Wu said. “We do weddings, birthdays, baby showers, business grand openings, it’s all about bringing good luck.”

The frenzy of the Lion Dance was followed by the soothing tones of a duet performance of traditional Chinese songs of the Chinese Zither by Lei Fang and Melody Chen.

Chen is just 11 years old but kept up well with her adult partner. She said she has been playing the instrument for 4 or 5 years and does it because she likes the music.

Another performance, by students from the Hope Chinese School in Germantown where Fang and Chen study music, was a form of martial arts similar to Tai Chi.

“With the music we feel calm and peaceful, we do it slowly as exercise to get the body well and improve balance,” performer Jiangyan He said.