By Feng Yingqiu
YANGON, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- A grand lion and dragon dance procession by 21 groups of Myanmar-Chinese sparked Chinese new year celebration in Myanmar's commercial city of Yangon Saturday afternoon, the eve of the new year of snake.
With large traditional drums beating and colorful festive flags flying, the round-the-Chinatown procession by the 21 amateur lion and dragon dancing groups gathered thousands of watchers.
As in previous years, the marchers paid homage to two Guanyin ( God of Mercy) temples in Chinatown with on-the-spot brief performance when they passed by.
The two ancient temples of over a century represent the two largest Chinese temples in the Yangon Chinatown.
The procession began in the heart of Chinatown which is the most crowded place for being a commercial center.
As it passed noon, traffic on the main road in the Chinatown, which had been partially blocked for three days by temporary roadside stalls for selling new year goods, returned to normal, paving way for the procession to take place.
During the day of the new year eve, family members used to come back home from wherever they were away for reunion-lunch or dinner.
Families of Chinese residents prepared their meal rich with meat, especially pork, chicken and duck, wine and beverages, and had their meal deliciously after paying worship to their ancestors.
Myanmar-Chinese families used to erect the signboard of their ancestors on the wall of their apartments for worship, burning sticks and paper-money of gold and silver and offering liquor and a variety of food with their worship to pay respects to their ancestors according to traditional customs inherited from their ancestors who drifted away from homeland in war time dating back to as olden as Qing dynasty when the first generation of Chinese citizens migrated to various parts of the world including Myanmar' s Yangon by waterways.
Following their parents, children are prepared for new year call on relatives and close friends on Sunday, the 1st day of the new year, wearing colorful new clothing. Children are naturally joyful and encouraged as they will be offered by elders red- envelop "Hongbao" as pocket money for use on whatever they want.
Some family members have spent the night of the new year eve by staying up late or all night at home or at temples to observe the moment of changing to the new year of dragon from the year of rabbit.
A series of lion dance competitions, involving the 21 amateur lion dancing groups, will be carried out in the Chinatown and will run from next Monday, the second day of the new calendar year for three consecutive nights. A prize presentation ceremony for prizes winning lion dancing groups will be held on Thursday when they will repeat their excellent performances.
Several other individual lion and dragon dance groups are also preparing to launch performances at some Chinese temples, international schools, and parks, respectively on invitation starting the first day of new year.
For the past week when the lunar new year was drawing near, the Myanmar-Chinese community launched their respective traditional charity activities with several social and religious organizations, distributing cash aid to poor old-aged people above 75 years of age with no children to care for them.
Other local Chinese cultural associations are also due to launch their biggest cultural shows on the new year days as annual festive get-together.