Graphic by Elena Remez
Long ago, there was a huge monster with razor sharp teeth, green scales and claws sharper than knives that would terrorize a village in China. Its name was Nian. Nian lived in a cave under the sea where it would sleep for 364 days, and on the first day of spring, it awoke from its slumber and roamed the land looking for food. It would eat the village’s livestock and crops, while the people hid in their homes and boarded up the doors and windows. Anyone unfortunate enough to be out went missing, presumed dead, never to be seen again.
One year, on the day before spring, an old man wandered into the village. It was a scene of chaos, the people were preparing for the arrival of Nian and the old man was completely overlooked, except for one kind elderly woman who greeted the man. She offered him dumplings, and while he ate she told him why everyone was so panicked. The old man offered the lady a solution: if she allowed him to stay the night in her home he would help get rid of Nian. With nothing to lose, the woman agreed.
The next night, Nian came. Only this time, the people were prepared. Instead of cowering behind closed doors, the villagers greeted Nian clad head to toe in red while banging drums and setting off fireworks and firecrackers. Red banners hung on the houses to ward Nian away. Nian saw all of this, turned and tore off back to the sea in terror. To this day, Chinese people ward off Nian and celebrate the arrival of spring.
On Friday, February 9, I along with Wilson’s Chinese program had the opportunity to watch a Chinese New Year inspired performance at Alice Deal Middle School. This year, Chinese New Year was celebrated on February 16, the beginning of the year of the dog.
I wholeheartedly expected the performance to be an inaccurate representation of Chinese traditions, but surprisingly, it did an excellent job of exposing American students to the Chinese culture. The presentation started with opening words from the current principal, Diedre Neal, and the Deal Chinese teacher, Yanming Zhi. All the speakers wore traditional Chinese clothes decorated with intricate designs of flowers, lotuses or animals.
After the opening words, various schools presented. In addition to Deal and Wilson, John Eaton, School Without Walls, Hardy, Oyster Adams, and Mckinley Tech attended.
Chinese exchange students were also in attendance. The exchange students were first to present, singing a beautiful Chinese song. Later performances, such as John Eaton’s adorable skits about the zodiac animals and McKinley Tech’s fashion show in which students sported Chinese dress, were just as entertaining to watch.
Let’s not forget about Wilson’s choir, who sang a song in Chinese to the audience. Overall, the Chinese New Year celebration at Deal was a wonderful experience, and a great way to kick off the new year! 新年快乐 (Xin Nian Kuai Le), or Happy New Year! •