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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Ridgecrest school community greets the Year of the Rooster

Feb 21, 2017 04:17PM ● By Rubina Halwani

Three Prince Nezha statues served as the background for a grand photo opportunity. (Ridgecrest PTA Facebook)

By: Rubina Halwani | [email protected]
Rows of bright red paper lanterns were strung from the ceiling, and a growing crowd of children stood in line to dress in Chinese attire and take a photo with three large statues of Prince Nezha.
“The prince is a protection god, like Hercules,” said Ling-Ling Chen, president of the Chinese Society of Utah.
The school community at Ridgecrest Elementary celebrated the Chinese New Year on Thursday, Feb. 2. The event was sponsored by the Chinese Society of Utah, University of Utah Confucius Institute and Ridgecrest PTA. This year is designated as the Year of the Rooster. The rooster is one of the 12 animal symbols represented in the Chinese zodiac.
Approximately 500 people attended the community event. Upon arrival, punch cards were handed out to every guest, with six stations to visit. Completed punch cards could be turned in for a prize: a red envelope with a dollar stuffed inside. The Chinese Society of Utah donated almost 300 red envelopes.
The first station featured three giant statues of Prince Nezha, a protection deity in Chinese folklore. Families gathered around additional stations to make fortune tellers and other festive crafts. Chinese calligraphy, games and a food sampling were also a part of the evening’s festivities.
The highlight of the evening was a lion dance performance. The dance is based on the story of Nian, a monstrous lion from Chinese folklore. Topmarks Education, an online educational resource site, explains the story of Nian and various cultural elements and their significance.
The lion was white, representing an elder age, and had a mirror on its head. The mirror is used to ward off evil spirits and ghosts when they see their reflection. Two performers dawned the giant white lion costume and romped around the cafeteria with drums playing in the background, mimicking the footsteps.
Two younger lions danced alongside. A man in a laughing Buddha mask and monk’s robe came out to tease the lion with a large Chinese fan. The lion chewed lettuce and red envelopes. Nearing the end of the performance, Nian blew out the leaves as a blessing of luck and prosperity in the New Year.
“We have done this event for four years,” Chen said. She said would like to work with additional schools in the future.
Cottonwood High School also celebrated the Chinese New Year. However, the sponsorship differed. Chen said that the Chinese Society represented Taiwan specifically.
The celebration is an expansion of the Chinese Dual Language Immersion Program (DLIP). There are four DLI teachers at Ridgecrest: Nana Zhao, Peru Hsieh Chen, Liping Zheng and Qian Li. They helped coordinate the event with the students, staff, parents and the partnering organizations.
Ridgecrest notes on its website that it is one of seven schools in the Canyons School District with DLIP. Students are taught different subjects in English for half of the day, and in Chinese for the second half.
“What a wonderful event,” said Jimmy Chen, executive advisor of the Chinese Society of Utah. “Thanks to Principal Winfree, teachers, staff, parents, students and volunteers.”
In addition to the community night, Ridgecrest PTA sponsored a fundraising dinner, called Panda Night, on Feb. 3.This event extended the previous night’s celebration and was held at the Panda Express in Fort Union. The PTA used décor from the New Year’s celebration to help decorate for the fundraising dinner at the restaurant. The school received 20 percent of profits from the fundraiser.