“Welcome everybody and Happy New Year!” said Chinese teacher Lin Wang, as he kicked off the morning’s Assembly. “Today is a big celebration for the whole community – not just the Asian community!”
On the morning of February 11, all Middle School students convened over Zoom for special presentations by their teachers and peers to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
The Lunar New Year, often referred to as Chinese New Year, marks the first new moon of the lunar calendar. Many people are mistaken in thinking this holiday is only celebrated in China, but it is a treasured tradition in several countries in Asia, such as Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, Mongolia and others.
“2021 is the Year of the Ox,” said Middle School Spanish teacher Debora Lee, who was now center-screen. “A year meant to bring good health and good fortune.” As she spoke, she pulled up a PowerPoint to reveal a Korean phrase: 새해 복 많이 받으세요.
She explained that the phrase is composed of distinct characters to signify “Happy New Year.” 새해 (saehae) translates to ‘New Year,’ 복 (bok) means ‘luck,’ and 많이 (mani) means ‘many’ or ‘lots of’. 받으세요 (badeuseyo) is the honorific way of saying 받다 (batda), or ‘to receive’.
Middle School students then took turns describing special foods eaten to commemorate the Lunar New Year. In Korea, rice cakes are enjoyed because they resemble coins, equating to prosperity; while in China, it is typical to eat spring rolls (resembling gold); steamed fish (for excess and abundance); and dumplings (as they resemble ancient Chinese money).
Next to the virtual mic was Class 5 teacher Jenet Dibble. “Lunar New Year is very special to me because of my Chinese heritage,” she said.
She shared a short, animated video titled “The Myth of the Chinese Zodiac” to explain which animal is assigned to each birth year and why. The 12 animals that make up the Chinese Zodiac are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig – in that order.
The video clarifies that this order was determined because of “a great race” planned by the Jade Emperor (Ruler of the Heavens). The first 12 animals to make it across the river would get a place in the Zodiac in the order they arrived. As the legend goes, the clever rat claimed first place by riding the ox across the river and jumping across the finish line before the ox had the chance.
Ms. Dibble then shared a chart that showed each animal’s corresponding birth years and the strengths and lucky colors attributed to those born in those years. Ms. Dibble noted, for example, “Most of my Class 5 students were born in 2009, the Year of the Ox; meaning you are honest, faithful and persistent. Your lucky colors are white, silver and cream.”
Yojin Chung, Head of the Middle School Math Department, showed students traditional Korean dress worn in celebration. “I was born in Korea and came to the United States when I was seven,” she shared as she described the big celebrations that took place when she was younger. She also showed examples of fun games she played as a child to honor the new year.
In China, children traditionally receive distinctive red envelopes for the Lunar New Year that symbolize luck and well wishes, often with money tucked inside.
After hearing from their teachers and friends, several Middle School students used the remaining time to share poems, skits or personal photos to showcase their own unique celebrations.
“If there was ever a year for good luck and good health, it’s this one!” concluded Head of Middle School Mary Rafferty. “Thank you for sharing your experiences with me and all of us. Happy weekend and Happy New Year!”