Chester was once again full of colour and spectacle for the annual Chinese new year parade, now in its 7th year. Organised by the Wah Lei Chinese Association,the event was also supported by Cheshire, Halton and Warrington Race Equality Centre, the University of Chester, Chester Voluntary Action, the Slowboat Restaurant and Wah Lei volunteers.
Chair of the Wah Lei (meaning “people’s wellbeing”) organisation, Mia Jones introduced the event also attended by the Lord Mayor, as the crowds gathered on Eastgate street and the rows to welcome the year of the monkey.The Wah Lei Chinese Association is based at the Unity Centre on Cuppin St , and was founded by local Chinese people to foster, support and improve the well being of the Chinese community and help them integrate with the wider community in the area.
As in previous years three colourful characters from Chinese mythology took centre stage and added some fun to a dreary winter’s day. The Jade Emperor , the Happy Buddha and the God of Prosperity were all present.
A Tai Chi demonstration brought some serenity and thoughtfulness to the event, as the performers entertained us all with graceful slow motion high fives and sword motions. Next up the Jade Emperor explained that those born in a Monkey year were thought to be honest, optimistic but stubborn. Chinese legend states that The Emperor of Heaven asked all the animals to meet him on New Year’s Day and named a year after each of the twelve animals that came.
The God of Prosperity introduced the lion dance, explaining the important role played by the yellow faced Happy Buddha. “He is the reason why we have the lion dance. A long time ago there was a lion that caused lots of trouble in Ancient China, destroying villages and eating crops. This man, came down from heaven and used his red sash and his fan, and he tamed that lion. He changed his ways from evil to good.” Something we can all relate to there. The two lions dancing in time to the percussion were a big hit with all, especially younger members of the crowd, many of whom petted or fed lettuce to the brightly coloured beasts.
The Eastgate st display was rounded off with the traditional firecrackers which in Chinese culture are thought to ward off evil spirits. The parade then headed down to the Cross and Bridge st, now joined by a 100ft dragon, adding to the carnival atmosphere.
Another great event for Chester, well done to the Wah Lei organisation and everyone who took part.
Happy new year !
Wah Lei Chinese Association – http://www.wahlei.org Tel: 01244 400730