BY LYNN EDMONDS
For the first time since the Flushing Chinese Business Association began their Lunar New Year Indoor Celebration 20 years ago, kids took part in the fun at the event, held at Queens Crossing. That was because Mayor Bill de Blasio declared Lunar New Year an official school holiday last summer.
With children so integral to the festivities, it was hard to imagine what the event would have been like without them. A toddler held on to her grandmother’s hands and watched the dragon dancers with awe and the slightest hint of fear. Her older and more confident counterparts fed red envelopes into the dragons’ mouths. The dragon dancers themselves, from what one could see of sweat-pant and sneaker clad legs poking through the bottom of the red dragon costumes, appeared to be middle-school aged.
Later on in the performances, a nine-year-old boy sang with passion and poise, casting his eyes down evocatively as he hit seemingly emotional parts in the song and ending his performance with a belted long note. A troupe of children ribbon danced and a martial arts group kicked in unison and broke blocks of wood. Most of them were Asian American, yet also present were a smattering of kids from other ethnic backgrounds.
Two high school students from the World Journalism Preparatory School in Flushing said they were happy they got the holiday off.
“They never really acknowledge Chinese New Year, so I’m glad they did it,” Vivian said, adding that she could now experiences the traditions with her family.
Her friend Melissa agreed.
“I feel like I have time to celebrate it with my family,” she said.
They said their school was not doing anything special for the holiday.
Other schools were. Public Advocate Letitia James brought her niece to the festivities at Queens Crossing because her school was giving extra credit for students that attended a Lunar New Year celebration, an idea James praised.
“Today every child, black, white, Latino, should understand and know what Lunar New Year is about, and the reason why they have the day off. If we are ever to get peace in this world, if we are ever to respect one another, we have got to break down the barriers and understand who we are as one another.”
Comptroller Scott Stringer spoke in favor of the newly created school holiday as well.
“What makes this celebration different from previous years is there are a whole lot of kids today who now have the day off, but what they really have is the opportunity to tell other kids why we have a holiday. And I think that’s a big teaching moment for all of this city,” he said.
Borough President Melinda Katz said her kids were at home learning to write Chinese characters.
Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) said that the decision to add the holiday to the school calendar was a matter of respect.
“This is something we all want to celebrate. China has a long civilization, and it is about time mainstream America, especially New York, recognize the Chinese culture, respect the Chinese minority populations in New York,” he said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo awarded a proclamation to the Flushing Chinese Business Association in commemoration of the holiday, as did Stringer.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, email@example.com or @Ellinoamerikana