Lunar New Year celebration encourages community to reflect


Camryn Banafsheha

Wushu Shaolin Entertainment Group performs a dragon dance in Saperstein theater to celebrate Lunar New Year with the entire middle school student body on Monday, Jan. 23.

Lunar New Year is a unifying holiday, embracing culture and connection through colorful traditions. However, this year, many are entering the new Lunar calendar in sympathy for the lives affected by the Monterey Park shooting.

People gathered to ring in the start of the new Lunar calendar in Monterey Park on Saturday, Jan. 21, when 10 were killed by gunfire. The joyful event filled with life and meaning instantly became a communal tragedy. These murders placed a somber filter on the holiday, changing the tone of this year’s celebrations.

For weeks in advance, AACC [Asian American Culture Club] had been preparing an assembly in honor of the Lunar New Year. However, when the news broke on Sunday morning, AACC faculty advisers and leaders began communicating. They decided to alter the message they had previously planned to share.

English teacher Cathy James shared the process of effectively editing the program to suit the unprecedented incident.

“The student leaders had several thoughts about how they would do the introduction – there was gonna be a fun fact trivia involved, and we were going to tell the characteristics of the rabbit,” James said. “So there were all these plans, and then after the incident that happened in Monterey Park, we spent that whole Sunday in communication with each other, shifting our piece of the program.”

As Monday morning arrived, students filled the Saperstein theater, and the Wushu Shaolin Entertainment Group prepared to take the stage. An emotional introduction from AACC faculty advisors James, dean Karen Fukushima, Chinese teacher Shuang Yang and science teacher Leslie Wang informed students about the Monterey Park shooting and sent out well wishes to all those affected.

Fukushima said that despite the sad tone the purpose of the assembly remained intact.

“We wanted to make sure that we are still focused on the celebratory and the community and coming together to share culture. I think all of those things were even more important because of that incident,” Fukushima said. “Because of what happened, I think it’s important to celebrate and bring joy and renewal of the new year to our community.”

James shared that seeing the students’ reaction was priceless, as she witnessed timeless Chinese traditions being appreciated by the school community.

“This was a reminder of what I saw growing up. Those dances represent the thousands of years of culture and tradition and this idea that you are connected back through thousands of years of other ancestors,” James said. “To see the dynamic energy [that the performers] brought and the kids’ reaction, it was like everybody was a kid again. They were giggling and ‘ooh’-ing and ‘ahh’-ing. They were just all in. So the kids’ reaction was the best part of it.”

James shared that the AACC faculty advisors felt extremely proud of the culture and joy that they had brought to the community.

“We just kept looking at each other like, ‘Don’t you feel so proud?’” James said.

Fukushima feels as though the goal of the assembly was achieved – tying past traditions to HW and acknowledging new beginnings.

“I think the message is really just to stop and pause and reflect and be grateful for what we have, which is family, community, and celebration.” Fukushima said.