Lunar New Year celebrates Asian culture, heritage

Sara Kloepfer

The new moon ushers in not only a change in the zodiac animals, but also a change in the leader of the United States with the presidency of Barack Obama. The Year of the Ox brings celebration but also holds significance in the current economic downturn.

“Due to the economy, people are hoping that the ox will help them with the stock market,” said Fengyuan Ji, Program Associate at the Chinese Cultural Center of San Francisco. “The New Year means a fresh start and getting together to celebrate with family.”

While Ji celebrates the New Year by gathering with friends to make dumplings because her family remains in China, students celebrated with a celebration in Syufy Theater on Jan. 26.

Seniors Kirsten Chan and Cody Luke, co-heads of the Asian Awareness Club, introduced a performance of acrobats from AcroSports City Circus that included aerial acts and contortion.

“We decided to bring in acrobats because acrobatics originated in China,” said Chan. “We thought it would be fun to show their influence in America and to switch it up from the lion dancers that perform every year.”

Following the performance, the Mandarin II and III classes shared their video about the Forbidden City, in which students explored historic sights. Junior Susie Lee then performed a Korean dance using a kyung-go, or prop drum.

“My dance instructor looked at Korean paintings from centuries ago and she saw dancers posing with little drums, so she thought it would be fun for me to dance with one,” said Lee. Her costume was made to flow with the dance’s modern moves.

Lee says that Korean New Year traditions focus on revering elders.

“One tradition is to bow down to your parents to show them respect and then they give you bok ju muh nee, which means pocket money,” said Lee.

The final piece was the Mandarin IV class’ video of students’ reenactments of Legends of the Great Wall. One such legend was the Legend of the Laughing Mouth, in which a father searches for his son who has not returned home after working on the Great Wall for a long time. They finally ran into each other at Songting Hill and were so happy that they died of laughter.

The school celebration is a prelude to the citywide festivities. The Chinese Cultural Center is holding the biggest indoor New Year celebration in San Francisco on the weekend of Feb. 7 and 8.

“We are trying to provide activities for the community to celebrate Chinese New Year,” said Ji. “For American-born Chinese, even if they are not from China, it is a time to celebrate their culture.”

The celebration will include various activities and events such as dancers, fortune-tellers, opera face painting, acrobats, and calligraphy demonstrations.

“Chinese New Year is the most important celebration in not only China, but to all Chinese,” said Ji.

San Francisco’s Chinatown community also marks the New Year with the annual Chinese New Year Parade, sponsored by Southwest Airlines, on Saturday, Feb. 7. Over 100 groups are estimated to participate, including floats, lion dancers, marching bands, stilt walkers, acrobats and Miss Chinatown USA and her court.

The highlight of the parade is the 201-foot Golden Dragon, or Gun Lum, carried by a team of over 100 men and women from martial arts group White Crane. A television broadcast of the parade is planned to appear on KTVU Fox 2 and KTSF Channel 26.