A grand lion and dragon dance procession by over a dozen groups of Myanmar-Chinese sparked the Chinese new year celebration in Myanmar's former capital of Yangon Thursday afternoon, the eve of the Year of Horse which falls on Jan. 31 this year. Beating large traditional drums and flying colorful festive flags, the amateur lion and dragon dancing groups organized the round-the-Chinatown procession, attracting thousands of by-passers. As in previous years, the marchers first called on two Guanyin (God of Mercy) temples in Chinatown with brief performances and then went on. The two ancient temples of over a century represent the two largest Chinese temples in the Yangon Chinatown. The procession began in the heart of Chinatown as traffic, which had been blocked for days for new year purchase, returned to normal, paving the way for the procession to take place. As a centuries-old tradition, people come back from wherever they are for family reunion on the Lunar New Year eve. Myanmar-Chinese families used to follow the tradition inherited from their ancestors who drifted away from homeland in war time dating back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) when the first generation of Chinese citizens migrated to various parts of the world including Myanmar's Yangon by waterways. Some family members are prepared to spend the night of the new year eve by staying up late or all night at home or at temples to greet the new Year of Horse from the Year of Snake. A series of lion dance competitions are to take place in the heart of Chinatown starting the second day of the Lunar New Year and the contests will run for at least three days and a prize presentation ceremony will be held at the end. For the past week, the Myanmar-Chinese community launched their traditional charity activities with several social and religious organizations, distributing cash aid to poor childless people above 75 years of age. Other local Chinese cultural associations are also to launch their biggest cultural shows of the year beginning the first day of the new year.