Historically, the lion dance has been used to scare away the evil spirits. The Chinese referred to this spirit as the “Nien,” which was pronounced similiarly to the Chinese word “Year.”
In desperation, the Chinese people asked the lion for help. The lion accepted and scared away the Nien. However, the Nien promised to return the following year, and it did; but this time, the people didn’t have the lion to protect them. So, again, in desperation, they created a bamboo and cloth lion, danced and roared, and scared away the Nien. The Chinese people in their success continued this practice for years to come.
Many Chinese people still have a firm belief in this Chinese mythology. Our modern day performance is modeled after the traditional southern China styles. Our lion’s head is made of paper-mache and bamboo. Its body is a colorful-patterned cloth with synthetic fur and bells.
It still takes two people to make the lion come alive, and the lion is accompanied by instruments: drums, gongs, and cymbals to provide the loud sounds that scare away the evil spirits. Many times, firecrackers are used to accompany this tradition; however, regulations in some cities prevent the use.
Today, you can have your very own performance of this deep-rooted tradition and bring your friends and family good luck and happiness.