New dragon debuts at a Chinese New Year celebration

The phrases are a little different. But the idea behind the slogans common to Chinese New Year celebrations are as wholesome and familiar as traditional western resolutions like “lose weight,” “eat better” or “exercise more.”

Speak good words. Harbor good thoughts. Do good deeds. Doing the right thing is wise. Doing the wrong is foolish.

Those were some of the suggestions shared with students at Sunset Primary School during the celebration Jan. 31 to usher in the year of the horse. At the same time as they welcomed the new year, they bid farewell to their Chinese teacher, Gao Yuan, who left her part-time position in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District to take a full-time job in the Beaverton School District.

Sunset Principal Lisa Hawking praised Yuan for the contribution she had made to the school community.

“You have reached out to teachers and used their ideas,” Hawking said.

“I have been so happy here,” Yuan said.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Giovanni Romano, front, and his younger brother, Dominic, help carry Sunsets new Chinese dragon on a parade around the school gym.She led a presentation of Chinese New Year traditions, including hong bao — the lucky money, traditionally distributed in red envelopes, that each student received. The students learned a traditional New Year’s greeting — “Gong xi fa cai” — and heard about the special foods that in Chinese tradition symbolize luck, happiness and a good year ahead, foods like steamed dumplings, lotus seeds, ginko seeds and black moss seaweed.

Although samples of those fortunate foods were not available at Sunset that day, the students did get to witness another important tradition, a ceremonial parade involving a silk dragon carried on bamboo poles around the gymnasium where the students were gathered.

“The dragon is an important part of Chinese culture. It stands for luck,” third-grader Kaelynn Radenheimer said to her fellow students.

Sunset’s dragon is constructed of silk, bamboo and wire. Fourth-grader Giovanni Romano took the lead, carrying the dragon’s head through the gym.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Cooper Hurley beats a drum to set the pace while he leads the schools new dragon on a parade to celebrate Chinese New Year.The nine children involved in the parade had taken part in an after-school enrichment class focused on Chinese language and culture.

“We were all excited to have that job,” Giovanni said. “It was very hard to carry the head.”

The kid-powered dragon followed a “pearl of wisdom,” carried on a stick by fourth-grader Pepper Rothe.

“The idea is that the dragon wants to be wise, so he’s trying to reach the pearl of wisdom,” fourth-grader Vivianne Edwards said.

Although the dragon was designed to be used during Chinese cultural celebrations and educational events at Sunset, instructional coordinator Emilie Bennett was already thinking about the next occasion the dragon could grace.

“We don’t have to use it just at Chinese New Year,” she said. “We can use it at other times. The dragon is a symbol for prosperity and good luck.”

Bennett said the dragon was likely to appear at school events alongside the school’s eagle mascot in the near future.

By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
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