Lunar New Year: A Time of Reflection and Celebration

The Lunar New Year, celebrated throughout Asia, began on January 22 this year, and Rivers marked the occasion with not one but two special events during the 15-day holiday. On Tuesday, January 24, the community enjoyed a festive evening of Chinese food, martial arts demonstrations, and dance performances. Then, at Monday’s all-school meeting, student members of the AAPI affinity group and Mandarin class members hosted a presentation that included a video and a special musical performance.
The joy of the events was tempered by the recent shooting, just before the start of the holiday, of several Asian people celebrating at a California dance hall. The specter of this and other recent incidents of violence aimed at the AAPI community lent a solemn note, as student speakers acknowledged the particular challenge of celebrating the day while mourning the tragedy. One student expressed the hope that, through the festivities, we could “find joy,” even as the community and the nation processed this latest outburst of anti-Asian violence.

At the January 24 event, more than 100 community members—students, parents, faculty members, and friends—gathered in Kraft Dining Hall to kick off the Year of the Rabbit with a delicious buffet dinner of dumplings, egg rolls, General Gau’s chicken, garlic and ginger green beans, and more, all prepared by the Rivers kitchen staff. The room was decorated with red paper lanterns, fans, and other traditional items. The color red—considered auspicious for the new year—dominated. After dinner, several youth groups from New England Wushu, a martial arts academy, demonstrated their prowess with swords and other mock weapons. They were followed by performers from CJT Dream Dance, who presented a range of traditional and contemporary dances.  

This past Monday, at an all-school meeting, students once again shared their feelings of sorrow and anger over the California shootings. The names of the victims were read aloud, followed by a long moment of silence in their honor. A video provided some background and context on Lunar New Year, and students Leah Jin ’25 and Madison Ngai ’25 described some of the holiday’s customs and traditions.

The centerpiece of the assembly was a lively and engaging musical performance. Music faculty member Thomas Marks explained that Chinese music typically relies on a pentatonic scale, and he led the crowd through a brief singing exercise that shed light on that distinctive sound. Zhongling Li, Rivers School Conservatory violin teacher and mother of Leah Jin, performed "Happy New Year and Spring Festival Song," accompanied on the piano by RSC Director Gabriella Sanna. Finally, a group of six students shared “Wild Dance of the Golden Snake,” another traditional New Year song, arranged by Adalia Wen ’25 and highlighted by her performance on the guzheng, a Chinese string instrument. 

For a celebration that, of necessity, blended joy and solemnity, it was a stirring—and hopeful—finale.