Students Celebrate Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year was implemented into the school calendar this year as a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) effort, according to the School President Daniel Cai. DEI is important to maintaining and improving the level of diversity within a particular institution. Hackley has a large population of students with an East Asian background and celebrating the New Year while being at school is difficult because celebrations take up the entire day. Having this day off allows students to connect with their culture without having to worry about schoolwork.

Lunar New Year is a festival celebrated annually in China, Vietnam, Malaysia, and other East Asian countries. It begins on the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ends on the first full moon, which is typically 15 days later. This year, Lunar New Year began on the 1st of February.

Animals play a significant role in the celebration of the Lunar New Year. The twelve animals of the zodiac represent the passage of time and the cycle of years. The twelve animals are the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. 2022 is said to be the year of the tiger. The tiger occupies the third position in the Chinese zodiac and it symbolizes strength, exorcizing evils, and braveness.

Senior, Daniel Cai, shared his experience celebrating the Lunar New Year with his family back in China, before 2019. The celebration begins the night before Lunar New Year. Families participate in Chu Xi, where they get rid of their old belongings. The morning of the New Year, the first task at hand is to clean the house spotless.

Families then proceed to prepare a feast for dinner. The cooking typically spans the whole day. Dishes such as noodles, rice, different meats, vegetables, and fish are prepared; few finish the food due to the sheer amount. In the evening, the whole family will get together and set off fireworks. Also, younger kids often put on shows for the adults.

Daniel explained that the main attraction of the evening, at least in China, is the government’s show. Each Lunar New Year, the Chinese government produces a show and everyone congregates around their TVs to watch it. This performance comprises a variety of acts such as singing, comedy, plays, etc.

At the end of the evening, before all the children go to bed, each family will make “red packets”. This is where parents will put money into red envelopes, which is the child’s allowance for the year, and the kids will sleep with it under their pillow. This tradition came from a legend about a beast who lived in the mountains. The only ways to quell the beast were money, the color red, and loud noises, which is why people use fireworks and make “red packets”.

From Daniel’s account of how his family celebrates, it is clear that Lunar New Year is a big holiday for people of East Asian descent. Preparations and celebrations take up the whole day, which is why the day off from school is crucial. Hopefully, taking a break from school will allow students to thoroughly celebrate with their families and form a deeper connection to their culture.

Sophomore NJ Roc-Sennet also celebrated Lunar New Year. “I ate at a Chinese restaurant called Tengda and my father gave my brother and me red envelopes.” Senior, Megan Chin, said, “I spent Lunar New Year with my family and ate Chinese food, such as fried rice, beef chow (ho fun), roast pork (char siu), and crispy egg noodles”.

Hackley also organized activities to celebrate the holiday and to teach the student body more about the holiday. On February 2nd, during community time, homerooms gathered to play a Kahoot with questions and facts about Lunar New Year. It provided a fun and interactive way for the students to learn about the holiday. Additionally, students created a PowerPoint explaining how Lunar New Year is celebrated in different East Asian countries. The AAPI student union within Hackley created the activity and presentation to honor the holiday.

The Grille room was transformed by decorations such as posters, about the zodiacs, legends, etc, and a dragon figure. The Flik staff also curated a meal to celebrate the holiday with dishes such as Teriyaki Chicken Thighs, Hunan Tofu, and Peppers.