Lake Oswego High students highlight Lunar New Year
The Asian American Student Union at Lake Oswego High School ushered in the Lunar New Year Tuesday, Feb. 1, with decorations and activities.
The Lunar New Year is celebrated within many Asian cultures and is a time to honor ancestors, reflect on the past year and ring in the year ahead. The holiday is associated with the Chinese zodiac, which assigns animals to specific years in a 12-year cycle. 2022 welcomes the Tiger, which symbolizes courage, bravery and resilience, according to the Chinese Language Institute.
Various traditions also boost good luck and fortune in the new year, AASU members Alicia Li and Kyla Zhang said. People wear red clothing, which symbolizes prosperity and wards off evil spirits. For dinner they eat certain foods like fish, which brings more blessings.
"The word for fish is actually the same pronunciation as the word for luck," said Zhang, "So if you eat a fish, it's lucky, but you have to leave some of the fish left so that you have some luck for the rest of the year."
In Lake Oswego, Asians make up just over 6% of the overall population, and about 11% of the school district student body, according to district data. In a predominantly white school district, sometimes there are not many opportunities to honor cultures with students from various backgrounds.
In elementary school, Li said parents of Asian American students would often celebrate the new year by bringing candy to students or teaching a lesson on the holiday. This was a chance for her classmates to learn more about a part of her culture.
But now as a high schooler, she said there have not been as many opportunities to do something similar.
"We felt like in high school, you don't really get to hear about other cultures and other holidays as much as (elementary school) on a school-wide scale, because parents aren't coming in to bring their kids candy at this age anymore. So we decided to decorate the whole school, to share our culture with everyone," Li said.
On Tuesday, members of AASU arrived at school extra early to decorate the hallways of their school with a banner made by members Olivia and Katie Chi and their mother. The students also hung up lanterns, which were donated by the Lan Su Chinese Garden and other festive decorations donated by local Chinese community members. The students also handed out pins and guava candy (the student's favorite childhood candy) at the front door to incoming students and staff.
The AASU members said they received positive feedback from their school.
"We had to use blue masking tape to hold the banners up, and we were afraid that once things fell over, people would throw them around or mess with them. But when things fell off the wall, what was really heartwarming to see was other students taping them back up or putting them in the lost and found for us to collect," said Li. "Some of our lanterns fell down, and we actually saw our vice principal getting out one of the huge ladders to put it back up — without us even asking."
Zhang said the feedback the group received made them feel like they "made a difference."
The students also orchestrated other activities for their classmates to participate in. On Wednesday, Feb. 2, about 50 students attended the AASU meeting to help make more decorations. LOHS students wrote down their new year's resolutions on Thursday, and the next day the students planned to put together a photo booth.
"(Resolutions and photobooth) are familiar to other students, but also we celebrated (new years) in maybe a time of year that's not familiar to them. So it is mixing our two worlds together," Li said.
It was the first time the AASU put on a celebration of this type. The students said they hope to make this an annual tradition and invite primary school students to participate in the festivities.
"We just really want to provide the whole district and our whole community with a really excellent Lunar New Year experience," Li said.
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