School holds Lunar New Year celebration after hiatus

A professional dancer throws chocolate coins and lettuce into the crowd as he performs the traditional lion dance.

Annika Skorski

The East Asian Culture Club hosted a Lunar New Year Celebration in the cafeteria Jan. 26. The event offered food stalls serving homemade Chinese food and bubble tea as well as hosting student-run activities including lantern making, calligraphy and trivia.

Thomas Iorio (’24), who organized the event, said the school’s Lunar New Year celebrations had been restricted during the past few years due to the pandemic, so he is thankful to see the community engaged in the celebration again.

“The school has always done the Lunar New Year event but it’s been at a standstill since Covid,” Iorio said. “So, we just thought it would be nice to get the community back involved with the Asian culture.”

Iorio said he planned the event alongside leaders of the East Asian Culture Club and parents from the East Asian Cultures Organization.

World Languages and Cultures Teacher Ting-Chi Li, who teaches AP Chinese, said the Lunar New Year is “the most important traditional festival” in Chinese culture. 

Li said she was glad to attend the Lunar New Year celebration at school, especially since the lack of an official school break makes it challenging to see family and uphold other traditions.

Because I am away from home, [the celebration] is one way to comfort me.”

— World Languages and Cultures Teacher Ting-Chi Li

“It’s not easy to take that much time off,” Li said. “Because I am away from home, [the celebration] is one way to comfort me.”

Maya Hu Dobbert da Cruz (’26), who operated the calligraphy table at the celebration, said this Lunar New Year has special significance for her. She said her mother is traveling to Taiwan to reunite with their family for the first time since the pandemic started.

“It’s really hard,” Hu Dobbert da Cruz said. “We haven’t been to Taiwan for three years and she’s finally going,”

Rowan Hamilton (’26) said her Chinese III class created porcelain art displayed at the celebration. She said the goal was to design the porcelain “to appreciate the art and culture while personalizing it.”

Hamilton said although she does not usually celebrate Chinese New Year, she appreciates learning about its customs and traditions.

“It’s just appreciating the diversity of the culture,” Hamilton said. “It’s really interesting to see how different it is from our New Year and how it brings everyone together. It’s really powerful.”

In order to teach them about the Lunar New Year, Li said she assigns students traditions such as family dinners and cleaning out workspaces instead of homework. Li said she also hopes this helps make up for not having a holiday and the covid travel restrictions that make celebrating difficult.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, Hu Dobbert da Cruz said she was unable to visit family members living in China, and thus appreciates the homemade food that was brought in by families because it is reminiscent of the food she had with her family in Taiwan.

“I haven’t visited for so long,” Hu Dobbert da Cruz said. “I really miss my family there and also their food is so good.”

Prior to the pandemic, billions traveled to their hometowns in China, meaning an influx of people traveled for the Lunar New Year, according to National Geographic.

Li said individuals who still do not travel to see family abroad should use technology to connect with their family members.

“Lunar New Year is a time for you to spend with your family,” Li said. “It’s always challenging because we can only FaceTime and sometimes there is a time difference.”

Li said she hoped the Lunar New Year celebration allowed participants to learn more about Chinese culture and connect with others.

Ultimately, Li said despite the hardships of the pandemic and long-distance communication, Lunar New Year always succeeds in bringing communities together. 

“You may not reunite with your family,” Li said. “But getting together and enjoying something together is the true spirit of the Lunar New Year.”