A Chinese dragon comes to Los Osos

Volumes of Pleasure Bookshoppe in Los Osos has invited everyone to attend its ninth annual community blessing ceremony by the Cal Poly Lion Dance Team in recognition of Chinese New Year.

“The year of the dragon is revered. The dragon is the only mythical animal in the Asian zodiac,” explained owners Carroll Leslie and Barbara Strauss. “For centuries, the ritual would scare monsters and evil spirits, but today it empowers business prosperity and health, long life and good luck for patrons.”

Leslie and Strauss attended a trade show in San Francisco 10 years ago that coincided with the Chinese New Year’s Parade. They followed the dragon dancers in and out of retail shops offering the ritual blessings.

“It was exciting and beautiful. We wanted to bring the concept to Los Osos,” Leslie said. “We invited the Cal Poly Lion Dance Team to share their culture. Free to the public, we’ve had up to 250 attend. Come early. Parking fills up fast and the dancers start on time. We have fortune cookies for everyone.”

The shop is at 1016 Los Osos Valley Road.

By tradition, an honorarium is hidden in a head of lettuce, and dancers must find it much like a piñata. Ravaged lettuce pieces landing on guests bring prosperity. Up to 20 dancers wear vibrant colors and know to approach children gently without frightening them.

Originally from Laguna Beach, Leslie and Strauss chose Los Osos about 20 years ago.

Strauss said, “We’ve always been interested in people, who we are and how we interact with each other, so studying international cultures has been a natural outgrowth of what we do at the store.”

Leslie said they studied many books, including Theodora Lau’s “The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes.”

They were so taken by the poems that accompanied the zodiac animals that they called the author for permission to reproduce them on bookmarks.

Leslie didn’t account for the time difference in Asia. It was 3 a.m. there when they called the author.

“Her husband answered, and they were very gracious,” she said.

Leslie was amazed when studying comparative zodiac charts.

“Barbara is a monkey, and I’m a horse in Chinese astrology,” she said. “Our personality traits are the same whether Hindu, Celtic, Western, Native American, Egyptian or Chinese.”

Strauss added, “In America we want to slay our dragons, but in the Chinese culture, the dragon is benevolent. This year, individuals are encouraged to assess their personal power then focus on traits to be the best they can be. Innovation, fertility, expansion, volatility, change and opportunity are associated actions for 2012.”

“I’m a rose-colored glasses person,” Leslie said. “It’s a beautiful way to learn about another culture. In 2012, Barbara and I resolve to continue to serve our community.”

Reach Judy Salamacha at judysalamacha@gmail.com or 801-1422.