Marufa Kasham, ’18
Monday, the 8th of February marked the 2016 Lunar New Year (also known as Chinese New Year). This holiday is celebrated by East Asian cultures all over the world according to the lunar calendar, even though most of these cultures use the Gregorian calendar officially. This year, BHSEC students took it upon themselves to bring this holiday all about family and love to our own BHSEC family.
In Chinese astrology, each year is connected to one of twelve zodiac animals: the rat, the ox, the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the goat, the monkey, the rooster, the dog, or the pig. Each year is associated with one of five different elements as well: fire, water, earth, wood, or gold. This year is the Year of the Fire Monkey. People born in the Year of the Monkey are said to be ambitious and adventurous. Perhaps counterintuitively, the year of each zodiac animal is said to be unlucky for those born in a year also associated with that animal. For example, this year would be unlucky for anyone born in another Year of the Monkey. It is advised that such people keep their loved ones especially close during the year.
BHSEC partnered up with the High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies to make this in-school celebration happen. At 2:20, students were lining up around the school to get inside. When the doors opened, the tickets were marked, and students were given red and gold envelopes. In Chinese culture, the red envelopes symbolize good luck. Traditionally, real money is put inside the envelope, and it is impolite to open it in front of the giver. However students were free to inspect their envelopes immediately, and inside they would each find a chocolate coin wrapped in gold letters with Chinese inscriptions.
The room was decorated with paper lanterns and red banners.The students and teachers kept to the walls, so the middle of the auditorium was clear. There were banners and signs with information about the holiday and about the Year of the Monkey hung around the room. Councilwoman Rosie Mendez was visiting the school that day to attend a meeting with the Diversity Initiative to talk about Respect for All Week, so she made a brief speech before the performance.
The curtains were closed, and on the stage there were several oranges surrounding a green lettuce. According to tradition, business owners would feed the lion dancers with oranges, and lettuce which is supposed to contain a red envelope for luck. At last, the curtains opened and students began to play the drums onstage, and the Chinese lion dance begun. There were two dragons manned by two students. The dragons entered through the main door and made their way onstage and back down again, dancing to the drums. Then one dragon tossed oranges all over the room. The dragon then took the cabbage and shred it to pieces. Another tradition of the Chinese New Year is to feed red envelopes to the mouth of the dragon’s dancers in exchange for good luck, so Ms. Turitz handed out red envelopes to the adults, who put real money in them and fed them to the dragon.The dragons then collected the adults’ red envelopes.
The performance ended, and the students, teachers, staff, and guests flocked to the tables with foods of different kinds. East Asian music played in the background as the food was served and everyone gathered on the floor to sit and talk with their friends as they ate. Towards the end of the event, Ms. Turitz led a raffle using the tickets that were marked at the beginning. Three BHSEC sweatshirts were given way.
This year’s celebration of the Lunar New Year was a lovely testament to the diversity and tolerance of the BHSEC community as students joined their schoolmates to celebrate their holidays with them. With the hearty participants of this celebration, it was a warm and fun event for everyone.