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With attention to details, New Year's festivities taking shape

By Chang Jun | China Daily USA | Updated: 2016-12-13 11:57

It takes about 20 Chinese parents, 11 elementary schools throughout the Bay Area and a small army of volunteers to stage the series of celebrations planned for the upcoming Chinese New Year, or the Lunar New Year, which will fall on Jan 28.

It's another round in the on-going effort Chinese-American immigrants are making to "tell the good Chinese stories" in the US through grassroots people-to-people platforms.

"It's spontaneous," said Luo Ping, founder of Able2Shine, a community platform that aims to advance soft skills among children of Chinese descent. "We, the first generation of Chinese immigrants in California, simply feel that we should do something not only to make our children feel proud of their Chinese heritage, but also spread awareness of Chinese culture during its most celebrated holiday."

During his 2015 state visit to the US, President Xi Jinping called on Chinese Americans to actively integrate themselves into the mainstream US society and build bridges between China and the US by actively promoting Chinese culture and telling the China story.

Luo and her volunteers have brainstormed about how best to do that, and it comes down to orchestrating and coordinating community, parents and schools.

"We want the 90 minutes to be fun, interactive and impressive," said Wang Meng, a software engineer at Apple who is coaching a children's dance performance. "We want to hear the children shout 'Wow!'"

In order to dazzle American students with the authentic Chinese arts, Luo and her team have turned to master musicians, magicians and martial artists.

"I tried emails, phone calls, one-on-one meetings, anything that will work," said Luo. "It might sound fun, but in reality, there is a daunting amount of detail in the planning and execution of these celebrations."

So far they have confirmed performances of Chinese string and percussion instruments, traditional dance and songs, a lion dance, martial arts, and "face-changing" with masks from Chinese opera, "which is always a secret weapon", she said.

Currently, 11 elementary schools have agreed to host a Lunar New Year celebration as a showcase to community cultural diversity; each will designate their own date to stage the New Year celebration.

In September, then-state senator Bob Huff, who represented the 29th District in California, had helped the state Board of Education change history textbooks to include material on the importance of the Asian Lunar New Year.

"(Chinese New Year) is the biggest holiday in the Eastern Hemisphere," said Huff. "It is fitting in our diverse state to encourage schools to participate in some way.

"The Lunar New Year is celebrated in many Asian communities around the world, including the United States, and especially California - where it is predominantly celebrated by 2.5 million Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese residents as a significant part of their deeply held cultural family traditions focusing on renewal and family ties."

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio took action last year to add the Lunar New Year to the New York public school calendar, allowing the city's Asian families to observe the traditional holiday with their children without tarnishing attendance records.

"We hope the same thing will happen in major cities in California soon," said Feng Feng, a mom volunteer at the Warm Springs Elementary in Fremont. "The significance of the Chinese New Year should be recognized in the US."

Contact the writer at junechang@chinadailyusa.com.


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