New York City public school students, who had the day off for Lunar New Year, also got a special treat at Lincoln Center.
“Student Day” at the center’s David Geffen Hall was a daylong event last Friday featuring music, art, dance and a 40-foot-long scroll of the five boroughs.
The scroll was inspired by Qingming Shanghe Tu, a famous painting of daily life in the Song Dynasty (AD 960-1279). It was decorated with artwork from hundreds of city students and China’s Central Academy of Fine Arts.
“With Chinese New Year a holiday for all public school children, New York City again highlights its embrace of diversity and inclusiveness. We are thrilled to partner with some of the city’s most iconic cultural institutions to celebrate Chinese New Year through arts, dance and music activities,” said Shirley Young, governor of the Committee of 100 and chair of the US-China Cultural Institute.
In 2016, New York City became the largest and only the second major urban school district in the country (after San Francisco) to recognize Chinese New Year as an official holiday for its public school children.
“It’s not only important for Chinese children, but for all our children in the city to learn about the rich Chinese culture,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said.
This year, about 1.4 million public school students in the five boroughs enjoyed weeklong Chinese New Year celebrations, according to Zhang Qiyue, consul general of China in New York.
With 2018 being the Year of the Dog, Zhang said the dog represents loyalty and is a great symbol for China-US relations.
“In terms of partnership and friendship, I want to say that China and the United States are the two big countries in the world. We have to understand each other by learning from each other, especially through cultural exchanges,” Zhang said.
“In my son’s class, 50 percent are Chinese students. So I think it’s great that we can share the culture and celebrate the holidays. It would be pretty smart for my children to learn Mandarin someday,” said Hida Magee, 38, a New Yorker and mother of three.
“I hope my daughter can learn more about the Chinese culture, learn more about her hometown here in the United States,” said a woman who gave her name as Chen.
“At school, our teacher showed us a video in Mandarin about Lunar New Year, and I saw these,” said Max, 10, who celebrated Chinese New Year for the first time. “I saw dragons, monkeys, chickens … and today it was my first time seeing a real one.”
Max and his sister Lela, 8, also take Chinese classes at the China Institute in downtown Manhattan.
“Last week, we just learned about the Chinese money, and I thought I could use some for today’s event. Unfortunately, these are all free,” said Max, licking his sugar-painted butterfly.
Keyla Hiciano, 13, a student at the Indiana Dance Institute, performed a chopstick dance.
“It (the Chinese dancing) is very different than regular hip-hop or contemporary dances. So, it’s cool to learn and very fun to perform,” said Hiciano. “I think it’s very great that Chinese Lunar New Year is becoming a holiday like Christmas.”
“I have been dancing with the National Dance Institute for seven years. I found the Chinese dancing very inspirational, and I want to push myself to do more. Chinese culture is very beautiful,” said Skye Blu Knight, 13, a student at Grand Concourse Academy in Bronx.
“I think it’s really cool to have Chinese New Year an official holiday in New York City. I am so thankful that they are doing this, because they are bringing two different cultures together,” Knight said.
Last Thursday, US Representative Grace Meng of New York introduced a resolution that urges the US House of Representatives to officially recognize Lunar New Year as a holiday. The measure encourages the House to recognize the cultural and historical significance of Lunar New Year in the year 2018.
“For the Asian-American community, Lunar New Year is the most important holiday of the year and it’s also a time to celebrate the important heritage of Asian Americans,” Meng, a Democrat who represents the borough of Queens, said in a statement.
“As Lunar New Year continues to grow in popularity, it is important that more be done to acknowledge this annual observance, and official recognition by the House would go a long way towards further appreciating the holiday,” she said. “I look forward to this resolution passing soon and I wish a happy, healthy, prosperous and peaceful New Year to all who celebrate the Year of the Dog.”
Meng’s resolution has been referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Meng first introduced legislation to make Lunar New Year a public school holiday when she was a New York state legislator. She worked with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to make it happen.
Meng believes the legislation makes Chinese culture a part of American society, especially in cities where there are large populations of Chinese Americans and other Asian Americans.
“There were schools that reported that there were more students absent than students present in schools. So it makes sense to make it happen,” she said.
“I remember as a kid, every year we celebrated the day before the Chinese New Year, which is New Year’s Eve. And we celebrated with the family (on New Year’s Eve), and we were usually up until 11 pm or 12 am, and then we’d have to wake up early and go to school the next day, which is the New Year’s Day,” she recalled in an interview with China Daily. “So this year when I was with my family, we were up late on New Year’s Eve, but on the next day, which is Feb 16, the kids don’t have to go to school.”
Wang Linyan contributed to this story.
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