Menaul School honors and respects the culture and heritage of all of its students, many of whom come to us from halfway around the world.
In recognition of the most important holiday celebrated by our students from Asia, Menaul will be observing a day of rest on Lunar New Year’s day, February 1.
Families received the above text message as a reminder of Lunar New Year, which is a holiday for the school. Lunar New Year is celebrated by countries in Asian and South East Asia, including Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Tibet, Mongolia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Celebrations last as long as 15 days.
The celebration goes by different names, including “spring festival”, or “Tet” (Vietnam), each with unique characteristics, but with major common themes.
The new year is time for a fresh start, with customs in each country related to clearing out the old, and making room for the new year—a luckier, more prosperous year. This year, in China, 2022 is the year of the tiger!
Recently in chapel, ten Menaul School Chinese and Vietnamese students gave an educational presentation about Lunar New Year.
The students, representing Chinese and Vietnamese culture at Menaul, shared some of the nuances of the holiday, since many people are unaware just how much it means to those who grew up with Lunar New Year traditions. They prepared their presentation so that their audience could get a glimpse into the deeper meanings behind the holiday.
See their slides, to find out what was most important to them:
College Guidance counselor, Chris Schifani says that he helped them coordinate the Powerpoint. “But the students did all the content”.
The 15-minute presentation did take time to prepare, since the presentation rotated between Vietnamese, Chinese (Mandarin), and English. For most of us, it was a unique experience to listen to a presentation delivered in an unfamiliar language—though Mr. Schifani’s Mandarin class likely had their ears perked for familiar words.
After the presentation, chaplain Takako Terino asked the audience what key ideas they picked up when learning about Lunar New Year. She replayed the slides while everyone contemplated quietly. Students then responded, “It’s all about food!”, “I notice they do a lot of word play”, “There’s a lot of symbolism in every part of the celebration”, etc.
Because Menaul School is small in size (195 students total), and students are generally quiet and respectful in the auditorium during the designated chapel time, it is easy to hold a group discussion.
Reverend Takako pointed out “family” as a key part of the celebration and reminded everyone that our students are thousands of miles from home. During Lunar New Year, students would typically celebrate with family for as long as two weeks.
Instead, students must make new traditions abroad, while honoring their home culture as much as possible while living in the Southwest USA. Our students intend to continue on to college in the US, adding to their time away from family, but with a sense of duty and pride in securing a good future.
Menaul Student Traditions
On the first day of Chinese New Year, we would post couplets and decorate our house. Not only that, but we will put “福”, (which means happiness upside down) on the door because the homophony of this in Chinese is the same as happiness is coming.
In the evening, our family would sit around the table and have a great meal together, which we called New Year’s Eve dinner. Moreover, dumplings are essential because they represent the Chinese people’s expectation for a happy new year. In the end, we will watch the CCTV New Year’s Gala and celebrate the New Year with everyone who is watching the show.Anyi Li, Menaul School, Grade 12
Menaul School has a long tradition of international student education.
Beloved alumni Mike Ng (from China) is proud of the fact that he is the first student from overseas to graduate from Menaul.
Mike, who graduated in ‘58, is a jazz musician and artist. He also had a successful career at Hallmark Cards, while also being a sought after jazz musician. In 2010, Menaul School awarded Mike with the HC Donaldson Award. We regularly get to visit with Mike’s brother, Jimmy, who was a dorm parent and sat on our board of trustees. Jimmy’s most recent claim to fame is as an actor in Better Call Saul.
What to do with this information?
A very kind thing to do, would be to pause and think of the Menaul School students who are far from home on a significant family holiday. They are making new traditions in the US with their dorm family, while also missing home.
The Lunar New Year presenters were: (in no particular order) Ruochen (“Robin”), Jiahui, Huan, Minzhe (“Sting”), Mengyao (“May”), Linh (“Ruby”), My Mai (“Amy”), Long, Anyi, and Hien (“Ashley”).