On February 1st, Ridgewood public schools gave their students the day off to celebrate the Lunar New Year, sometimes called the Chinese New Year. The calendars for the public schools of our surrounding towns like Glen Rock, Waldwick, Middletown, and Paramus, reveal that Ridgewood is the only one to give the day off for the holiday.
The Lunar New Year is a 7-day long celebration that incorporates many traditions and activities like fireworks, red envelopes, and a New Year’s Eve Dinner. On top of these, each year celebrates one of twelve zodiac signs, and 2022 is the Year of the Tiger. Many decorations this year display tigers and gold details, like the red envelopes filled with money and gifted to friends and family. The holiday culminates in a New Year’s Eve Dinner. Families gather to serve dumplings, fish, and rice cake said to bring good luck for the new year.
This year, I celebrated by going to a New Year’s party hosted by some family friends. We cooked and ate many dishes, including dumplings, and toasted the New Year. This is one of my favorite annual traditions because I meet people I rarely see and eat delicious food from my culture. Sophomore Juliana Kye explained her family’s way of celebrating the holiday. “We ate Tteokguk, which is basically soup with rice cake, eggs, kimchi, and beef in it,” Julie described. The white oval rice cakes in this Korean dish also represent a prosperous new year. Various cultures and nationalities celebrate the Lunar New Year in many unique ways.
The non-Asian residents of Ridgewood also found ways to learn about and enjoy the Lunar New Year. School programs have helped to increase awareness about the holiday and culture. For years, Somerville Elementary School has been inviting its local Asian parents to speak about the Lunar New Year in its classes. This year, Ridgewood Schools are teaming up with a local restaurant, Truly Sichuan, to do No Cook Nights. Truly Sichuan provided a special, authentic Sichuan menu and would donate 12% of its sales to Ridgewood Schools (Willard Elementary School Website). Abigail Urbaez’s family “made a lot of lanterns and strung them up everywhere” and ate a lot of dumplings. They were inspired by her little brother, a student at Somerville Elementary School. “He was very interested in the holiday from school” she explained, “where he read a bunch of articles about it”.
There are various ways to celebrate your own culture and those of other nations and people. In 2022, Ridgewood has made large strides towards helping its residents, especially the children, learn about the Lunar New Year. This helps make a more close-knit, diverse, and open-minded community, which Ridgewood is on the right track to becoming.
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