Life in Yangon Myanmar - Celebrating Chinese New Year - by Anika Mikkelson - Miss Maps -

Life in Yangon, Myanmar : Celebrating Chinese New Year

A time of celebrations for all ages, Chinese New Year is alive and well in Yangon’s Chinatown in the month leading up to the Lunar New Year. The young get dressed in tailored outfits, often made by relatives or friends. They perform choreographed songs and dances on stages set up throughout Chinatown, particularly on weekend mornings and weekday afternoons when temperatures are less extreme. When timid to perform in front of all, tots and primary students can be seen dancing on the streets with Mom’s hand in one and Dad’s in the other. Snacks of Nian Gao and Tang Yuan, both made from glutinous rice, are considered to bring wealth and prosperity to all who enjoy their sticky goodness, and are sold at street corners by the crate-full.


Click on an image to view photos of Yangon’s Chinese New Year up-close:


Dragon Dances and Lion Competitions are highlights of the celebration. Several times throughout the year, teams of young men will join under the lengthy cloak of a dragon costume, visiting homes to scare away demons and welcome in prosperity (all the while, collecting donations). In the two weeks leading up to New Year’s Eve, these visits become more frequent and families and friends band together to invite the dancing dragon into their homes and businesses.

At the same time, last minute preparation for the annual lion dance competition are underway from before dawn until after dusk. Drums, cymbals and gongs can be heard drifting from open second story windows and metal pillars are set up on side streets surrounded by gym mats to protect dancers from the pain of inevitable tumbles.

During the nights leading up to the Lunar New Year, competition begins. Hundreds of spectators crowd around the main stage and near-by collapsable screens to watch the performances while seated on plastic steps stools. Night after night, a dangerous mixture of athleticism and grace was performed by young athletes vying to be Myanmar’s top duo.


Click to enjoy a video of Dragon Dancers in Yangon, Myanmar during Chinese New Year:


Young men train half the year around the world to prepare for a week-long competition just off one of Yangon’s busiest roads. Duets jump, spin, swing, lift, shuffle, and mime their way to stardom, all while balancing on posts far above onlookers heads and holding on to heavy cloaks of colorful costumes.

One boy takes control of the mouth and eyes, showing a range of emotions from excitement to faux drug-induced euphoria. The other lifts his mate, running and jumping to show heightened senses.

At times, despite their best efforts, an athlete will slip up, sending one or both performers tumbling to the ground. With speed and height adding to the danger, injuries are easily attained and can mean the end of one’s career occurs in a split second. If a fall occurs, athletes have the opportunity to begin where they left off, acknowledging a strict penalty and risking further injury.

This happened at this year’s semi-finals, and although the pair chose to finish off the night’s competition and were chosen by judges to advance to the final round, they did not perform again. The final night, only one showed up to accept his award. The other, who violently pummeled his chest onto one of the metal poles while being dragged down by the force of his connected partner, was a no-show. Disappointment was evident, the promise of next year a far cry from consolation.


Click on an image to view photos of Yangon’s Chinese New Year up-close:


That night seven teams gathered to compete in the final competition. With matching shoes covered by furry paws to imitate those of a lion, they eagerly began their journey to the top.

Here is video collected from the ultimate Lion Dance Competition – the final of a 15-night span in Chinatown, Yangon, Myanmar. Watch carefully for the artistic highlights and laughable moments. Enjoy!


Click to enjoy a video of Lion Dancers in Yangon, Myanmar during Chinese New Year:


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