By GABRIELLA CRUZ-MARTÍNEZ
Murray Language Academy students celebrated the 2018 Chinese Lunar New Year last week by organizing their first-ever festive New Years school day parade where students created paper lanterns, Tianshi paper cut artwork and dog masks to ring in the Year of the Dog.
“The school organized the event as a way for all students to learn more about the traditions in our community,” said Santa Spector, a Spanish teacher at Murray Language Academy, 5335 S. Kenwood Ave. “This is our first year doing this kind of activity and we were excited to see the students become so involved.”
During the parade, the school hallways came alive with traditional Chinese New Years music and children grades K-2 danced down the halls showcasing their crafted dog masks. Behind them, older students carried red envelopes (known as hong bao) that they gave to younger students for good fortune.
“The red envelopes had a penny inside them to symbolize good luck,” said Bing Ni Laoshi, a Mandarin teacher at Murray. “They all had a smile on their faces.”
“Red envelopes are gifts presented at social gatherings and holidays like the Chinese New Year,” added Laoshi. Traditionally, the red color of the envelope symbolizes good luck and is a symbol to ward of evil spirits.
Although the Chinese New Year was celebrated on Feb. 16, Murray went above and beyond to have their students and teachers be a part of the New Years tradition by providing a hands-on crafting workshop with visitor Tian Xing, an award-winning artist for her work crafting Tianshi paper cutting.
Tianshi paper cutting art is a type of traditional folk art that originates from the Yijun town of Shanxi Province during the Tang dynasty. The influence of Tianshi paper cutting spread overseas after the declaration of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 and has lasted and been passed down for generations and has now become an integral popular art in various ethnic groups throughout China.
Students at Murray showed off their paper cutting skills by crafting unique shapes into their creations for the New Years celebration. They later put up their pieces along the windows of the school.
“Next year we hope to improve the parade with performances of dragon dancing,” said Spector. “The activity was a great learning experience.”
Laoshi added that Tierney Duffy, a Spanish teacher at Murray that helped organize the event, “was happy about the turn out.”