Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Wood Dragons, Lanterns, and Song--Celebrating the Chinese New Year

February 24 was a very special day at the Botanical Art Garden in Herrontown Woods.  Community celebrations of the Chinese New Year had begun two weeks prior, when in the morning sun, the air cool and crisp, dragons began to appear in the Barden, first on the gazebo, 

then on a small leaning tree. 
Another dragon strode down the wooden bridge fashioned years ago from fallen trees.
By mid-afternoon, people had gathered, too, some 200 in all, for a dragon parade, traditional Chinese songs and games, and a tea party--all part of a festive community gathering in nature.
To the beat of red Chinese drums, children and adults carrying colorful dragons paraded through the winding paths of the Botanical Art Garden, known as “the Barden.” Children sang traditional new year songs, guests enjoyed tea and tangerines, and the Herrontown Woods visitors played traditional games like jianzi and ribbon dancing.

Some of the more adventurous participants joined FOHW president Steve Hiltner for a lantern walk up to Veblen House. 

The event was the brain child of Danni Zhao, who founded United Moms and recently completed a PhD in economics at Princeton University. She was inspired by the nature of Herrontown Woods, and also by the nature of this especially auspicious year of the wood dragon. Again, from the Town Topics article:
“The wood dragon, known for its cooperative, upbeat, and understanding nature, symbolizes a year of growth and stability, especially in relationships,” Zhao wrote in a press release. “It brings both the promise of fortune and new opportunities according to the Chinese zodiac. This made our event at Herrontown Woods particularly special, blending the wood dragon’s symbolism with the serene beauty of nature.”

Danni teamed with FOHW board member Inge Regan, and as they worked together over several weeks the event took shape.

Though this was probably the largest event we have hosted to date at the Botanical Art Garden, there was no sense of overcrowding, as kids and adults spread down the many paths that wind through the grounds, exploring the Barden's numerous nooks and crannies.  
After an afternoon of joyful processions 'round the gazebo and down the garden path, this dragon collapsed on a table for a well-deserved rest. 

One doesn't usually think of February as a time for outdoor events, but somehow the weather felt just right. Coats and dragons helped keep us warm.