Lunar New Year celebration spreads cultural diversity and appreciation


Elitsa Koleva

As the guests finish up dining, two lions enter the cafeteria and perform their lion dance. This was during the Lunar New Year celebration, which took place on Jan. 28 and was hosted by the Asian Culture Club in collaboration with the Chelmsford Chinese School.

Elitsa Koleva, News Editor

The rhythm of drums carries through the room and two lions appear, one golden, the other red. Swiftly, they make their way around the tables of dining people, playfully sticking their noses into their food and dropping oranges in their path, a symbol of good luck and prosperity for the year ahead. The crowd cheers and children cry out in delight, in awe of the jittery, life-like creatures. It was at this moment that WA’s annual Lunar New Year celebration truly began.

The Lunar New Year celebration was held once again on Jan. 28 after being put on hold temporarily due to the pandemic. Spearheaded by the Asian Culture Club and Chelmsford Chinese Language School (CCLS), the evening began with a dinner at 4:30 p.m. and an activities fair. Later on, there were professional performances and raffles held in the auditorium, with WA Mandarin students also there to perform as part of their midterm oral exams.

According to the Asian Culture Club officers, everyone within the Lunar New Year Committee, which was in charge of planning the event, had something to contribute. For instance, the adults found sponsors for the event, like Yami and Mac n’ Choose, while also contacting and hiring the performers. On the other hand, Asian Culture Club was in charge of setting up the dinner, activities fair, and organizing the performances.

“We tried to plan it last year […] but then a lot of the stuff was getting left out and we felt that it wasn’t going to be a good celebration,” Asian Culture Club co-president and senior Yanxin Wang said. “This year, I think the Chinese school was helpful for us [when it came to things] we weren’t familiar with […] and also managing how the whole situation was going to work.”

Another major driving force behind the celebration was the unity within the East and Southeast Asian community around Westford. Whether they be Chinese or Malaysian or from another culture entirely, they were all connected by their common love for the Lunar New Year.

“It was so heartwarming to see people communicating from every background. [For instance], I was there with this [man from Malaysia] and we were both talking,” sophomore Mandarin student Kanishka Murungalingam said. “There were just so many different cultures coming into this one place, trying to bring this one event out there. It just showed what Asian culture is and it signifies a lot.”

Among the performances was a face-changing program from the Sichuan Opera by Schuwang Yang, a martial arts routine led by the World Class Martial Arts team, as well as group dances by CCLS and the Angel Dance Company. Within the first act there were raffles sprinkled in between, with items like an SAT prep coupon as well as food baskets provided by the event’s biggest sponsor, Yami.

Mandarin I and II students also performed the song “I Miss You” which was selected by Mandarin teacher Xi Feng due to its catchy tune and moving message. For the more advanced senior Mandarin IV students, they recited the poem “Farewell to Cambridge” by Chinese poet Xu Zhimo, which was accompanied by a soft piano tune played by senior Nick Yang. 

“[The song can be missing] someone like your family members or your friends […] so I think it’s sweet especially in the Lunar New Year, because that is the festival for family reunification,” Feng said. “And then the […] poem’s name is ‘Farewell to Cambridge’ but it is also a farewell to our [seniors] because they are graduating. It’s a little bit sad but you leave with your heart and you will definitely come back.”

For many WA students, the performances were a chance for them to reconnect with their heritage and reminisce back to when they were younger. For senior Alice Guo, who served as emcee between performances, it was the double duet, which included four violins and a piano, and the poem that left an impression on her.

“Farewell to Cambridge made an impression on me because ever since I was young, I learned some Chinese poetry and that was one of the poems I learned. […] It was really nice to hear people still appreciate Chinese poetry,” Guo said. “There was also the [double duet], which was some traditional Chinese music that my mom and dad [knew and thought it was] so cool to hear.”

Along with the performances, the Asian Culture Club also held a cover contest for the Lunar New Year informational booklet provided at the front entrance. They selected winners from all grade levels and ultimately chose senior Mia Clark’s design to grace the cover. Additionally, they invited the WA Troubadours to play for the dining guests, who managed to pull off songs like “Butterfly Lovers”, which was adapted from Chinese legend, and one of their favorites, the theme from “Pirates of the Caribbean”.

To make the celebration happen, WA students had to juggle midterm exams at the same time, which was a challenge. According to Asian Culture Club vice president and junior Clara Fang, if there was one thing the club officers learned during this process, it was good time management skills. Not only that, they also learned how to make decisive decisions whenever necessary.

“There [were] a bunch of external factors that […] we didn’t see coming, so we had to think really fast and find solutions to [problems] like sudden schedule changes,” Wang said. “And even at the event, [when] the food inspector didn’t approve of the food temperature, we had to reheat it and think fast.”

In the future, Asian Culture Club hopes that the money raised from this event will be enough to fund the Lunar New Year celebration next year. Going forward, they also hope to include performers and Lunar New Year traditions from other countries in Asia, like Vietnam, South Korea, and Cambodia. 

“I think just looking at the [cultural performances] and gaining an appreciation for the culture will help you treat the people of that culture with more empathy. […] I hope to see more things like this with different cultures so that I could learn about people who I’m not familiar with,” Guo said.