Betty Chu Pryor, Lower School Head

Celebrating the Lunar New Year

“What is your favorite holiday?” While Halloween, Independence Day, or Valentine’s Day are likely favorites for many children and adults, my answer has always been “Lunar New Year.” Growing up, I never fully understood the significance behind some of the traditions that accompanied the holiday, but I can remember the sights and sounds quite vividly. The events and tasks leading up to the holiday always invoked a sense of excitement, anticipation, and change that differed for me from the celebrations on January 1.

The preparations my parents made and the traditions we celebrated were extensive. My parents always took great care to clean the house to “sweep away the bad luck from the previous year.” My siblings and I would help decorate with red couplets featuring messages—with Chinese characters we didn’t fully understand—that we knew were granting our household good health and prosperity for the coming year. Haircuts were always imminent before the new year arrived. So was going to pick out new Chinese New Year outfits so that the bad spirits would not recognize us! The new clothes were a thrill as they frequently featured bright colors such as gold that were rare in our everyday clothing. And we would always receive some “lucky money” in red envelopes from our parents and relatives.

The delicious smells wafting from the kitchen as my parents prepared a large Chinese New Year’s Eve feast filled our home and were irresistible. As children, we were ecstatic that eating candy was also an annual tradition. The candy guaranteed a sweet start to the new year! (We even tried to convince our parents that consuming more candy could only bring us more good fortune in the months to come. They didn’t buy it.) The feast was one of a few rare occasions in which my Mom would take out her ornate serving and rice bowls in addition to special pairs of red chopsticks that were stored away during the rest of the year. While my parents worked hard to make ends meet and provide for the four of us on a daily basis, we indulged in foods on this day that we knew were expensive to procure and time-consuming to prepare. We always felt very fortunate as we shared this special meal together.

As I raise my own children now, it is important to me to maintain and pass along many of these traditions. While our feasts are nowhere as extravagant as those that my parents were able to pull off, and my children opt to shop for their special outfits at the mall instead of Chinatown, it is rewarding for me to explain why our new year begins on a different day than the new year on the Gregorian calendar. And why we decorate our house together and read the numerous books about the holiday that did not exist when I was growing up.

While my family is Chinese and the traditions I associate with the holiday are Chinese in origin, the upcoming Lunar New Year is an important holiday that is celebrated throughout East Asia in countries such as Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Mongolia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, Philippines, and Indonesia just to name a few. Thus, it is one of the most celebrated holidays in the world, and we are delighted to bring one aspect of these cultural celebrations to campus next Friday, January 27, during the sharing assembly, which begins at 8:30 a.m. in the Barn gym.

We invite you to join us as we welcome back the lion dance troupe from the Calvin Chin Martial Arts Academy of Newton. Calvin Chin and his troupe have performed at BDS in the past but took a hiatus during COVID. Thanks to the efforts of the enrichment committee of the parents’ association, they will return to perform and answer questions. The lion dance is usually performed during Lunar New Year celebrations to banish the bad luck of the last year and to usher in good luck. The vibrant costumes, the upbeat drumming, and the acrobatic feats of the martial artists never cease to amaze me, no matter how many times I witness them. I hope that you will be able to experience the lion dance with us firsthand next Friday.

The Lunar New Year begins this Sunday, January 22, and lasts for 15 days. Happy Lunar New Year to those that celebrate the holiday in our community, and may we all be blessed with good health and prosperity in the upcoming year!

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