Cultures of Colonie: Lunar New Year

The Lunar New Year, commonly known as the Chinese New Year, is a multi week celebration of family, prosperity and good fortune. Centered around the lunar calendar, the weeks of celebration are different each year but are steeped in rich tradition.

Celebrated throughout the world, Lunar New Year is a two-week period in which you honor your ancestors, spend time with your family and prepare yourself for a lucky new year. The holiday is celebrated with colors of red and gold, lion dances, gifts of money, parades, fireworks and so much more.

Lisha Kill Middle School teacher Cody Ng sat down with us and shared facts, history and traditions of the holiday in a new podcast segment called Cultures of Colonie where we honor the different cultures celebrated throughout the South Colonie school community. You can find the episode below.

Ng’s grandfather started the performance group NY Choy Lay Fut, when he came to America from China in 1968. Since then, it has become a family tradition to participate annually in the Lion Dance— a dance believed to scare bad spirits, vibes and bad luck away. Designed to bring prosperity and good fortune, this tradition is something that is very important to those who celebrate the Lunar New Year. 

Teacher performing in a lion dance
Onlookers watching NY Choy Lay Fut’s lion dance

On Sunday, Jan. 22, the start of the Lunar New Year, Ng’s family traveled to New York City to perform in the first day of the Lunar New Year parade. Among the crowd was New York City Mayor Eric Adams, New York City’s Chinatown district representatives, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, Senator Brian Kavanagh and Congresswoman Grace Meng. During the parade Congresswoman Meng announced that New York was attempting to pass legislation to make Lunar New Year an official federally recognized holiday and a state recognized public holiday. 

“This parade meant a lot to the people there,” said Ng.  “To also have policy makers consider making Lunar New Year an official holiday would mean so much to everyone who celebrates.”

NYC performance group putting on a lion dance
Chinese Lion Heads accept a cabbage offering, which represents wealth

The compilation of hate crime data, published by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism has shown that anti-Asian hate crimes have reached all time highs. This weekend a mass shooting occurred during a Lunar New Year celebration on the West Coast that left 10 people dead and more wounded. 

“Despite the tragedy that unfolded this weekend, I felt it was my duty to honor those who lost their lives by continuing to perform and celebrate the first day of our Lunar New Year,” said Ng. “We went out and performed even harder, knowing what had transpired and we continued our duty of ushering in our New Year and the good fortune and prosperity that comes with it.”

In celebration of the Lunar New Year South Colonie will host festivities throughout the district to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit. Students will decorate red lanterns, color banners and at the elementary schools participate in parades.  Lisha Kill students will also host a special celebration with the chance to watch Ng and his group perform the lion dance.

You can find a video of their New York City Performance below.