The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 2, 2007


The Year of the Pig - Chinese New Year celebration comes to Carlisle

On Saturday, February 10, from 1:30 to 4 p.m., the Carlisle Public School will again play host to a variety of Chinese cultural treats: dancing, singing, crafts and food to ring in the Chinese New Year. The New Year signals the coming of spring and prosperity and is a joyous occasion in China. There will be demonstrations of Chinese painting and calligraphy, Chinese paper folding and martial arts. All the activities have significance for the New Year. This event won the Massachusetts Cultural Council's 2006 Gold Star Project Award.

Paper-based activities

Several of the activities are paper-based. China was the first to develop paper, back around 100 A.D. Thirteen centuries later, Chinese paper folding, or "Origami" was started. "Ori" means fold and "gami" means paper. This art was then brought to Japan. In ancient China, paper would be folded into different figures for various ceremonies. Also, dolls and animals would be made out of paper and then thrown into the river to drive away evil spirits. Using paper for all parts of everyday life, such as clothing, windows, packaging and toys, became part of the Chinese and Japanese cultural tradition. Students will help participants fold paper into a pig's head in honor of the Year of the Pig.

At another table, attendees will cut paper into a fish design. The Mandarin word for fish is "yu" which is a homonym for "surplus" or "more than enough." The fish symbolizes togetherness and abundance. A whole fish is usually served at Chinese New Year; the head and tail are not chopped off because that is considered unlucky. Also, the fish is never fully eaten, signifying that the family will always have more than enough all year.

A ten-day celebration

Chinese New Year is a ten-day period when family and friends exchange token gifts, give children red envelopes with "pocket money" and reunite over extravagant feasts. Red packets or envelopes are every child's delight at the Chinese New Year. Red envelopes are given by married couples to children and other unmarried people. Red is an auspicious color, symbolizing a blessing or good luck, so gifts of money are always given in red envelopes, decorated with an appropriate symbol of greeting or a good luck sign, known as " Hong Bao." The giving of the money represents a wish for fortune and wealth in the coming year.

The Du family will demonstrate Chinese painting and calligraphy and will write names in Chinese for attendees who visit their table.

The Dragon Dance

In addition to crafts and food, there will be entertainment. The Dragon Dance will be performed by eighth graders. The dragon has always been considered the embodiment of power, dignity, luck, strength and success by the Chinese. Chinese emperors proclaimed they were incarnations of the real dragons to assure their superior authority. The Dragon Dance was originally performed to please the dragon, the deity of water, to ask for rain during drought years. Gradually, it became a dance for festive occasions.

The Lion Dance will be performed by sixth graders. To the Chinese, the lion is a symbol of power, majesty and courage, capable of warding off evil spirits. In Chinese legend, the lion is the ninth son of the dragon and was the best employable guard; thus it was usually seen in front of royal palaces, offices and residences. The Lion Dance requires more Kung Fu skills than the Dragon Dance, and it is believed to bring luck and happiness. The lion is accompanied by musicians playing a drum, a gong and cymbals, with another person who entices the lion, usually holding a fan or a giant ball called a Qing.

The graceful Ribbon Dance will be performed by seventh- and eighth-grade girls. Originally only red ribbons would be used to scare away evil spirits. They represented a firecracker, an explosion of color and movement. Today, ribbons come in a variety of colors. Carlisle's Chinese language teacher, Chiao Bin, will perform a solo Ribbon Dance.

Two fifth-grade girls will perform the Peacock Dance with their dance group from Acton. A seventh-grade student will perform a Chinese folk song on a flute.

Two boys, one from Concord- Carlisle High School and another from Acton-Boxboro High School will give demonstrations of Chinese martial arts and seventh-and eighth graders will perform Kung Fu.

Other entertainment includes Chinese folk songs performed by a group of parents with accompaniments by two students. The fifth, sixth and seventh graders will also sing a folk song about little lambs going home. The performance will end with all the students and the audience singing the Chinese New Year song.

Symbolic Chinese dishes

Even the food at the buffet on February 10 has New Year's significance. The long noodles in Lo Mein symbolize long life. When Chinese families gather together for special ceremonies, they often have chicken, so General Gao's Chicken will be served. The Shanghai Spring Roll symbolizes that spring is coming. Chinese dumplings, the symbol of prosperity, have always been considered as Asian/Chinese money. Rice, a traditional Chinese food, is called "treasure rice," and fried rice is also on the menu.

Admission to the celebration is $5 per person or $20 per family, payable at the door. All are welcome. Come and enjoy the festivities!

2007 The Carlisle Mosquito