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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Culture, traditions highlighted during Ridgecrest’s Chinese New Year celebration

Mar 07, 2023 03:53PM ● By Julie Slama

Families gather to watch dual immersion students demonstrate kung fu at Ridgecrest Elementary’s Chinese New Year festivities. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

The Ridgecrest Elementary program began with first-graders singing “Gong Xi,” a popular Mandarin song celebrating the Chinese New Year. Second-graders then demonstrated their kung-fu talent, followed by each grade level of dual immersion students showcasing their talents.

The school’s tradition of celebrating the Chinese New Year with the community included hands-on activities, such as practicing calligraphy, making a paper lantern, coloring a rabbit for the year of the rabbit and making Chinese keychain. A crowd favorite centered around sampling Chinese delicacies.

The Pettit family, including their aunt who recently arrived from Israel, gathered around a backdrop, taking a selfie after their children performed.

“This celebration is new to us since our children are in first- and second-grade and didn’t get to experience it before because it wasn’t held like this during COVID,” mother Bethany Pettit said. 

While her first-grade son, Shiloh, hopes to one day be China’s “president,” her second-grader, Judah, said learning the language is “fun.” Pettit is hopeful kindergartner Lucia will take up the language next year, which he nodded, adding that the fortune cookies were his favorite part of the evening. Three-year-old Soni also liked the Chinese treats.

“It’s so amazing they have this opportunity to be a part of this, to learn about international culture and study a language in their elementary school,” said Pettit, who appreciated learning Japanese while living in Japan. “I want them to be able to communicate in Mandarin, but I also am grateful they are learning our culture is blended; it’s more than just one.”

In the hallway, where student artwork of rabbits and traditional Chinese art adorned the walls, parent Mindy Whiting said she also appreciated her children, fourth-grader, Andrew, and kindergartner, Claire, learning about another culture that night.

“My son just sang and now, we’re doing all these different activities and crafts,” she said, adding that she tried studying the language on her own to better support her son when he was initially learning it online during the pandemic. “It’s hard to learn, but I had heard from other families who have older kids that it was a good program. Initially, I was on the fence, but I'm really glad our son is in dual immersion. It's very cool to be able to learn Chinese.”

Whiting hopes her son will continue his Mandarin studies through middle school and take the advanced placement class in high school. 

“He already has that goal,” she said. “I hope Claire will follow. Just knowing the language, is going to open doors for them.”