Tuesday, November 25, 2014

BY CAROLYN LUCAS-ZENK

WEST HAWAII TODAY

Millions worldwide will celebrate Chinese New Year next month and its mightiest of its zodiac animals: the dragon -- the water dragon, to be exact.

The dragon is considered "one of the greatest celestial powers" as it symbolizes life, growth, optimum expansion, good fortune and intense power. For 2012, it will most likely bestow five blessings: riches, harmony, virtue, longevity and full life, said Clyde Wong, Tong Wo Society member.

"This year is said to be all about flowing over and around obstacles," he said. "The water element energy also nourishes new beginnings, innovation and successful growth. It will hopefully bring new focus on how we live daily, empower us to be more cognizant of others' needs and create more positive outlooks."

Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is a 15-day celebration that begins with the first new moon in January and ends with the first full moon. Jan. 23 marks Chinese year 4710, or the Year of the Dragon, Wong said.

The Chinese lunar-solar calendar rotates through 12 zodiacal animals: the rat, ox, tiger, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. These were the only creatures to accept Buddha's invitation to gather on the new year, according to legend.

The holiday will be marked by rituals, traditions and community celebrations intended to foster health, happiness, prosperity and luck. Many traditions are universal, while others are localized, Wong said.

In North Kohala, the celebration begins at 10 a.m. Jan. 29 outside of the Tong Wo Society building in Halawa, about three miles from the King Kamehameha Statue toward Pololu, just past the first horseshoe turn on the mauka side. There, sequined lions will dance, drums will bang, fireworks will explode, incense will burn and prayers will be offered. Festivities are meant to bolster the yang, energize everyone, add jubilation, share blessings and appreciate history, Wong said.

Attendees can also learn more about the Tong Wo Society building, which is only open to the public once a year during Chinese New Year. It was built in 1885 and is the state's oldest Chinese building, Wong said.

"This is a tribute to the Chinese pioneers who gave their lives for the progress we have and enjoy today in Hawaii," he said. "This is also a chance to give back to the community, especially the young kids, and share our traditions with pride. We want to help build memories by letting them feed lucky money to lions, enjoy the smells and tastes of the new year, and leave with a sense of mystery, wonder and better understanding."

A potluck will take place around noon and attendees are asked to bring something to share. Donations, accepted throughout this four-hour celebration, will be used for maintenance and restoration work, Wong said.

The Tong Wo Society hopes to raise $25,000 to purchase and install a new roof for the building. The nonprofit doesn't receive funds from foundations and relies solely upon public generosity, Wong said.

For additional information about the Tong Wo Society celebration, call Wong at 959-8162.

clucas-zenk@westhawaiitoday.com

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