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WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

The year of the dragon: another successful WA Lunar New Year celebration

Kate Kelly
Students from the Chelmsford Chinese Language School wave colorful fabric-made fans in the midst of their performance.

Vibrant paper decorations strung through the stairwells once used during passing periods. A pounding tune of live drumming comes from a cafeteria once filled with paper trays and backpacks. Entering the hallways, an energetic line of people dressed in red carry a dragon puppet as they serenade the building with laughter. With joy persisting through the night, WA becomes the centerfold of a worldwide celebration.

The second annual post-pandemic Lunar New Year Celebration took place at WA on Saturday, Feb. 10, from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Organized primarily by WA’s Asian Culture Club (ACC) and the Chelmsford Chinese Language School (CCLS), the event aimed to enrich the local community with a variety of cultural festivities.

The Lunar New Year is a global celebration that marks a new year according to the lunar calendar. The Chinese zodiac cycle deems 2024 as the year of the dragon, a symbol of both fortune and strength. The event is commemorated annually at WA by a variety of traditions including an authentic Chinese dinner, a cultural showcase, and a collage of performances. 

Tickets were advertised to any individual interested in attending, not solely those who are affiliated with WA. With an abundance of social media advertisements and posters, the event was able to draw in hundreds of people for the night of celebration. 

Working alongside ACC, CCLS has been a local nonprofit organization for over 30 years and aims to provide classes that teach Chinese language and culture. These classes are open to individuals of all ages, with or without a Chinese cultural background. CCLS has always worked to partner with the ACC to reach the widest audience possible for the Lunar New Year event. 

“A lot of volunteers came from [CCLS]. They helped us with the decorations and gathering volunteers and for the posters and everything. They were a really good support system,” ACC sophomore treasurer Harsheta Krishnakumar said. 

According to Mandarin teacher and ACC advisor Xi Feng, a majority of the volunteers from CCLS are first-generation immigrants from mainland China or Taiwan. This, in turn, provides a more authentic and community-based experience from the event.

[These parents’] dedication to our events reflects their deep commitment to community service in Westford,” Feng said. “These parents are not only passionate about contributing to our events but also actively involved in ensuring their children, who are born in the United States, grow up in an environment that embraces both local culture and their Chinese heritage.”

Members like Feng, Krishnakumar, ACC senior president Clara Fang, and the rest of the club’s executive board have been constant leaders in the organization of the event. They worked together to find funding, performers, and other volunteers to ensure a successful night for the community. 

A poster hung at the WA Lunar New Year Celebration depicting the variety of sponsors that contributed to the event. (Provided by Xi Feng)

Funding, in particular, is one of the most important, yet lengthy tasks that ACC and CCLS must accomplish every year, commencing as soon as possible. This year, the event was able to receive sponsorship from 18 groups, the most prominent being an online E-commerce company called Yami

“I think the [hardest] part of the planning process is sponsors because you have to call a heck ton of people […],” Fang said. “A few [sponsors] are pretty stable, like Russian Math, but you still have to call every single one of them individually or walk into their store.”

While some of these sponsors were returning from previous years, the program was financially supported for the first time by a multi-thousand dollar grant from both the Westford Cultural Council and the Mass Cultural Council.

“This year’s celebration doesn’t mark a significant departure from the previous year, but rather an enhancement of it,” Feng said. “We hired more professional staff for food preparation and stage [performers]. Undoubtedly, we’ve invested more money compared to last year.”

The final poster design selected for the event, created by senior Devin Marshall. (Kate Kelly)

Because of the magnitude of the event, the ACC also recruited other WA communities to pull everything together. Another main task for the group was creating a booklet with information on all contributors and the night’s schedule for attendees. This is where digital art teacher Melissa McDonald stepped up. 

McDonald had her students design their rendition of a cover for the booklet, as well as a poster design for advertisement. While the contests for these designs were open to all submissions, McDonald’s students ensured a variety of participation. Ultimately, freshman Brighten Ng’s design was chosen for the poster and senior Devin Marshall’s was chosen for the booklet. 

From 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., the gym was filled with booths from a variety of sponsors and local groups that were available for browsing. Ping pong tables and photo backdrops lined the walls and provided interaction for people of all ages. Furthermore, the hallway was lined with countless raffle baskets donated by an array of sponsors. Finally, the cafeteria was a focal point for community interaction as decorated tables buzzed with conversation and served full meals from Sichuan Palace Restaurant, located in Chelmsford.

By 7:00 p.m., the crowds of attendees were swept into WA’s Performing Arts Center to watch twelve acts put on by CCLS, WA Mandarin students, Chinese Folk Art Workshop, New England Wushu Academy, and individual Shuwang Yang. 

Between every two to three performances, emcees would give small speeches on the displayed culture while announcing raffle winners. Of the eight emcees, junior Rebecca Ward and sophomore Srivas Arun spoke most frequently, both of whom have taken Mandarin at WA since their freshmen year. 

The third of the twelve performances featured a stage full of WA Mandarin students spotlighting their ongoing devotion to the language by singing the authentic song “Look Over Here, Girl.”

“We chose [the song] because the Mandarin department doesn’t have a lot of girls for some reason, their ratio is really off,” Ward said. “So, Feng Laoshi thought it would be a good idea to do a song that was like, basically joking around saying, ‘Come on, girls, join the department.’” 

Aside from the students’ act, other notable acts include a Sichuan opera changing face program, a variety of dances each with distinctly picked costumes, a duel dragon dance, and many more. 

After another Lunar New Year celebration, the ACC and supporting members are able to appreciate the success of the event and continue to work towards enriching the community with knowledge and appreciation of new cultures. The club now looks forward to their annual Boston trip at the end of the year.

“[The Lunar New Year] is a major holiday for a lot of Asian countries. But there really aren’t too many, large celebrations around […],” Fang said. “A lot of people here are families that have immigrated from other Asian countries. So [the event] is really just to connect the community. And there’s a lot of things I learned while planning these events that I didn’t know, so it’s also a sense of learning more about your own culture.”

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About the Contributor
Kate Kelly
Kate Kelly, Features Editor
Hi, my name is Kate Kelly and I’m a sophomore writing as a Features editor for the Ghostwriter. This is my second consecutive year on the staff and I'm excited for more to come! I also enjoy listening to music, playing soccer, and biking.

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