A Lion Dance for Good Luck

Philadelphia residents gathered at The Rail Park to celebrate The Year of the Rabbit.

A volunteer with the Friends of the Rail Park hands out pork buns to members of the community. | EARL KUFEN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

On Jan. 28, more than 1,000 Philadelphians gathered at the Rail Park, a former rail line transformed that was turned into a green space with entrances at Noble Street and Callowhill Street, to see the Philadelphia Suns’ lion dance, a tradition meant to chase off bad luck and bring good luck for the new year.

Friends of the Rail Park, a nonprofit organization, hosted the event in collaboration with Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, Asian Arts Initiative and the Philadelphia Suns to bring the community together and celebrate the Lunar New Year. 

The Lunar New Year celebrates the arrival of spring and the beginning of a new year on the lunisolar calendar. This year is the year of the rabbit, meaning people born this year will be gentle, quick-witted and easygoing, according to Lunar New Year traditions

Tom Hang, a teaching assistant living in Chinatown, attended the event to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

“So it’s kind of like a good luck thing,” Hang said. “Like if it’s your birth year, like your Chinese zodiac year. It’s gonna be a prosperous year for you, as well as some other people born on other animals, zodiacs, or it could be bad luck, so it’s both good luck and bad luck depending on where you are.”

Shortly after the event began, the Philadelphia Suns boomed down Callowhill Street with musicians playing drums, gongs and cymbals. Upon arrival at the Rail Park, the Suns danced displaying Kung Fu moves, history and art, capturing the attention of attendees. 

Throughout the event, Friends of The Rail Park handed out free food to visitors and helped children make paper lanterns and cards thanking family members who gave gifts. 

Vanessa Chandler has worked with the Friends of Rail Park since May 2022, and Saturday’s event was her first Lunar New Year celebration with the organization, and she believes the celebration is an important space for the community.

“We try our best to engage and provide activities for Chinatown residents and things that align with their culture and bring more awareness to some of their cultural practices,” said Chandler, the development and operations associate of the Friends of the Rail Park. 

Attendees like Kareal Amenumey, a resident at Fourth Street near Morris, enjoyed being able to learn about new traditions they didn’t grow up with.

Amenumey attended the event with Michelle Meyer, a Washington D.C. resident, Meyer is visiting Amenumey for the holiday.  

“I hope that the Rail Park will continue to foster this close relationship with Asian American people all across the city and especially in the Chinatown area,” Amenumey said.

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