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Chinese Lunar New Year Gala Celebrates Year of the Dragon

WEST ORANGE, NJ – The annual Chinese Lunar New Year Gala was celebrated in style at West Orange High School on Feb. 2. Arts and crafts, performances, a Chinese dinner by Maschio’s, and raffles highlighted the evening. The event was planned by faculty and students in the Chinese program with support from United Asian Voices of West Orange.

“The West Orange High School Lunar New Year Gala offers an opportunity for the West Orange community to learn about, celebrate, share, and develop an appreciation for the rich cultures and traditions of the more than 1.5 billion people who celebrate the holiday throughout the world,” began World Languages Supervisor Felix Plata.

“The Lunar New Year is celebrated by Asian communities in the United States, China, North and South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam to name a few,” he noted.

“Students from grades 6-12 participated in the planning of activities and performances and partnered with community organizations to make it successful,” he continued.

“It was wonderful to see the diversity of our students participating in the Gala,” said West Orange High School Chinese teacher Yajing Li.

“Some of my former students came to visit me during the holidays. We sat in my living room drinking tea and catching up. It gave me such joy to think ‘Wow, these outstanding human beings were my students!’ I was so proud,” she added.

Laoshi (teacher) Li then introduced a short video of alumni from the Chinese program dating back to 2012, who shared their favorite memories and what they were doing now. The alumni were all recipients of scholarships from the Chinese program.

Students in West Orange Schools enjoy a robust language experience, being exposed to Spanish at the elementary level and moving into sixth grade with the opportunity to take a semester of Chinese, Spanish, Italian, and French. Middle School. Students at Roosevelt and Liberty Middle Schools can take Chinese, Spanish, French, or Italian as a language course, and continue in high school.

This year all 480 students at Edison rotate into Chinese classes for a marking period. 90 students in seventh grade at RMS and LMS take Chinese, 60 in eighth grade, and 150 in grades 9-12 at West Orange High School.

Edison Middle School students performed the Dragon and Lion Dances, Roosevelt performed the Ribbon Dance, and Liping Meng, Chinese teacher at Columbia High School and gold-medal competition winner in Chen Style Tai Chi, exhibited her routine.

High school students provided Chinese opera, songs from “Mulan,” traditional dance, poetry and a K-Pop dance, ending the evening with a group effort “The Dragon’s New Year.”

“This type of event embodies the significance of the study of world languages, which is much more than just learning to speak another language. The true benefits of studying World Languages are to develop the global competence and cultural responsiveness necessary in our global society to effectively understand, empathize and communicate with people who share different perspectives. These are 21st century skills that are necessary to effectively navigate our world for the betterment of all,” Plata explained.

A dragon in China is a cultural phenomenon, considered as not only a symbol, but a spirit and mascot. Throughout Chinese history, the dragon has represented good luck, justice, prosperity, and strength. Those born in the Year of the Dragon are viewed as charismatic, intelligent, confident, powerful, naturally lucky, and gifted.

All funds raised at the Lunar New Year Gala will go towards scholarships for graduating seniors in the program.

View the Chinese Lunar New Year Gala Program HERE.


Chinese Lunar New Year Gala





Cynthia Cumming
Feb. 5, 2024