Entering the auditorium, one could already feel the excitement buzzing, practically palpable — a hum of chatter and laughter and anticipation. Indeed the event, though one of the most recent additions to our school calendar, was already becoming one of the most popular. It was the Chinese New Year celebration at Lawrence Woodmere Academy (LWA).
The celebration capped off a week of festivities. Chinese New Year, or Chun Jie, fell on a Sunday this year but, arriving at school the next day Feb. 11, one was greeted with festive red paper decorations lining every wall, wishing happiness and prosperity for the new year. And what better way to ring in the new lunar year than with an hour-long event that would have people talking for days?
The audience couldn’t wait to see the singing and dancing routines for which the previous year had set high expectations, as well as appearances from some of LWA’s favorite personalities. As the lights dimmed in Hessel Hall, drums began beating and two large dragons charged into the auditorium through both front doors, dancing up the aisles past the audience before meeting at center stage. With the dramatic entrance, the celebration had officially begun!
Each performance was introduced by the returning emcees from last year’s show. Many featured large ensembles of singers and dancers, with the girls wearing traditional qi pao dresses and twirling ribbons, and the whole audience clapping along to the beat of the song. A performance of the song “Dancing of the Golden Snake” was played first on violin and piano, then on the traditional Chinese zither. The fascinating “Peacock Dance” was performed to much applause, and was followed by a display of calligraphy to beautiful live zither music.
As the show wrapped up, the emcees called raffle numbers for several prizes. Winners walked away with hand-painted scrolls, lanterns and fans. For the grand finale, all of the celebration’s performers gathered onstage, the lights dimmed, before the opening bars of the international pop-hit “Gangnam Style” burst forth accompanied by a display of disco lights. The audience went wild as the performers galloped to the familiar dance, before segueing into another, equally infectious tune. The energetic music had the whole room dancing and waving their hands, and ended in thunderous applause. The ebullient mood continued through the rest of the week.
With all of the singing and dancing of our school celebration, it was easy to forget that the heart of Chinese New Year lies somewhere deeper. When Clark Jiang was asked about the defining characteristics of the holiday, he rattled off an inventory of dishes consumed at the New Year’s dinner, hitting virtually every farm animal in his list. Also popular in the celebrations are the red envelopes of money given to children, as well as the fireworks that light up the evening skies.
However, when asked about his personal favorite part of the New Year, Clark smiled shyly and admitted that it was not the money or the gastronomic exorbitance which he most enjoyed, but the quality time he spends with not only his immediate family but also grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
For Clark, Chinese New Year is a time to put all of the problems of the previous year behind him and to start the year afresh. For everyone else, even those not personally celebrating, the draw of freshly made dumplings can be just as satisfying.