Lunar New Year Then and Now

Lunar New Year Then and Now

An interview with WSP Parent and Early Childhood Assistant, Yixin Zhang

by Christine McQuade-Hsu | Advancement Director

How did you celebrate the Lunar New Year when you were growing up?
I was born in China and grew up in China. Although we have many festivals, Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, has been my favorite festival since I was a young kid.

In my memory, when I was little, my parents didn’t have any days off except during Spring Festival. They stayed at home and the whole family was very busy shopping, cleaning, cooking, etc. My sisters and I were allowed to watch TV shows at any time without time restrictions.

The most important time during the long Spring Festival was New Year’s Eve. My parents usually spent the whole day preparing for the New Year’s Eve dinner. You could find almost all of the best food on the New Year’s Eve dining table, which were hard to obtain for daily meals, or foods with good meanings, ie. fish was a must-have, as it means “surplus”, having surplus year after year, surplus in money, food, and clothes.

New Year’s Eve dinner belonged to the whole family. The fireworks were the favorite activity for young children. My sisters and I were allowed to stay awake to see the fireworks at midnight. Every family fired the fireworks starting around 11 pm and continued for about one and half hours. The loud sounds of fireworks drowned out all of the other sounds: people’s talk, TV shows, etc. People enjoyed the noises and wished the best for the new year in the splendid flames of the fireworks.

My sisters and I were not allowed to get up late on the first day of the Spring Festival although we went to bed at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Another round of fireworks sounded violently again in the early morning.

Afterward, every family member changed to new clothes dedicated to the new year. My sisters and I bowed down to my parents to wish them a happy new year with good health. My parents sent the red envelopes to each of us, which was my whole year’s allowance. I usually spent the money on books and magazines.

Then, my favorite festival tradition followed: dumplings for breakfast, which was a tradition for the first day of the Lunar New Year, and particularly special compared to our everyday breakfast of porridge. When I was young, dumplings of all kinds were my favorite food.

We spent the entire first day visiting neighbors, friends, and relatives, with every pocket filled with candies. People in the streets had smiling faces and greeted each other: “Guo Nian Hao!”, which means “Happy New Year!“

Children were gathering together to show off their new clothes, and to compete for who got the maximum amount of candies and the best candies. Boys played with the small firecrackers which didn’t need a lighter but when slammed into the ground would cause a crisp sound to pop up.

What are some of your favorite ways to celebrate it now?
Now, I live overseas with my family. Usually, we have a simplified version of the Chinese New Year celebration. We keep the main elements of the traditions: dumplings, red envelopes, cleaning, visiting, and greeting friends, inviting relatives for the New Year’s Eve dinner.

Instead of spending time watching TV shows, we go outside to attend the celebrations in some museums. San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum is one of the places I recommend to everyone who wants to know more about the Chinese New Year.

The Lion Dance is also a good one. I had never seen it when I was in China because it was popular in the very South of China, and I was born in North China. My daughter Yumeng, who is a 6th grader now, was fascinated with the Lion Dances when she was little.

Could you suggest any activities, recipes, crafts for others to try?
If writing Spring Festival couplets in Calligraphy are too difficult for you, Paper Cutting is a craft that you definitely want to try with your children. You could follow this video to make a beautiful pattern for your windows.

Some people refer to the Lunar New Year as a Spring Festival. Could you explain?
The Spring Festival has a long history. It originated from the activities of worshiping gods and ancestors at the beginning and end of the year in the Yin and Shang Dynasties which was more than three thousand years ago.

In ancient China, the Lunar Calendar was used officially and popularly, like today’s solar calendar. The New Year’s celebration started on the 8th day of lunar December and ended at the night of 15th day in lunar January as the Lantern Festival. The peak time of the whole celebration was the first day of the lunar year to celebrate the coming of the spring and people would begin the farming tasks after the long winter break. People worshiped the gods for a smooth, happy, and good harvest year.

Spring Festival was another name for the Lunar New Year.

Do you have any new year’s wishes you’d like to share?
The British poet P.B.Shelley said, “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”

As 2022’s Spring Festival is coming on February 1st, the year of the tiger, according to the legend of Chinese New Year, the monster of “Nian” who ate people once a year during the beginning of the New Year, was scared by the loud noise of fireworks, the red staff i.e. red decorations including red couplets, red paper cuttings sticking on the window glass, red clothes etc. The “Nian” never comes again.

I wish the world will conquer the “monster” of the COVID-19, which will be going away soon and never come back, as what the wise ancient Chinese did to “Nian”. And that we will have a really nice spring without masks. Our beautiful smiles will be fully presented and we will be breathing freely the fresh air anywhere.

Happy Spring Festival!
Happy Lunar New Year!
Happy Chinese New Year!

Welcome New Board Member Vikrant Batra!

Welcome New Board Member Vikrant Batra!

Vikrant Batra is joining the WSP board as our newest trustee. He shared an enlightening conversation with alumna board member Alyssa Woodman to introduce him to the wider community.

What drew you to WSP?
We’ve been a part of Waldorf schools for the last eleven years. In December 2018, I had the opportunity to move from San Diego to the Bay Area for work. Being part of a Waldorf community was vital to us – WSP’s presence and reputation in the community helped us make the decision to move and live here. Through the admissions process, we had the opportunity to speak with several members of the staff, faculty, and board and came away very impressed with how well the school operated. Most importantly, during the shadow week, our kids immediately felt at home and the “new Waldorf school” experience was comfortingly seamless.

Your children Dante and Sahar are in 8th and 5th grade, which of their classes would you have most wanted to join this year?
I would have loved to join their strings class – one of my biggest regrets is not being able to play a musical instrument! When I see Dante play the double-bass or Sahar playing the Cello, I am always fascinated at how easily they can create amazing music.

What aspect or goal of our board work in the coming years most excites you?
I feel we’re experiencing a time in the world when Waldorf education is more relevant than ever. The school has weathered the ups and downs of COVID quite well and is now ready to emerge stronger and grow. I am most excited about the opportunity to work with the rest of the board and the administration to enhance the awareness and understanding of Waldorf education in our communities and grow the footprint of our school.

Do you have any new year’s resolutions or past-year reflections you want to share?
Resolution: Track what makes you feel good and bring more of it into your life. Notice what makes you feel lousy and do less of it.

What has been a favorite project you have led or participated in?
Right at the beginning of COVID, along with a couple of close friends, we decided to import organic wine and incorporate a company. It all started as something interesting to dabble in on the side while we were all stuck at home, but has turned into a lot of fun. We now have four organic wines that we source from Spain and Italy and are starting to pitch retailers. It’s been a fun “weekends project”. We created easy-to-drink, under $20 wines with fun brand names. If anyone wants to sample Pink Wink, Blanc Check, or Glorious Rascal, give me a call!

Do you have any heroes? Thich Nhat Hanh, Winston Churchill
Favorite environment? Seaside
Last book you read? Four Thousand Weeks: Time management for mortals by Oliver Burkeman
What would you sing for Karaoke? “We’re not gonna take it” – Twisted Sister 🙂
How many/which languages do you speak? I speak Hindi & English and can understand Punjabi
Can’t-live-without tool/gadget/toy? Corkscrew
Do you collect anything? Wine

Please join us in welcoming Vikrant as our newest WSP board member.

Class of 2022 brought “togetherness” to annual High School Retreat

Class of 2022 brought “togetherness” to annual High School Retreat

by Dylan L. | Waldorf Chronicles Editor, Class of 2023

Reprint from The Waldorf Chronicles, High School Newspaper

How will people change and grow in the wake of the pandemic?

We don’t yet know the answer – and, in some respects, we don’t even know the right questions to ask.

The pandemic continues to dramatically affect our lives, including our relationships with other people in our communities, our families, our homes and our peers. Our seniors, Class of 2022 created the opportunity to develop a theme that brought a strong sense of community which WSP has always taken pride in. The theme, “Togetherness” has brought many smiles, laughter and joy to be back as a whole to celebrate the new school year.

For some, losing face-to-face contact with people and being thrown into much closer contact than usual can feel stressful and may be worrying, frightening or even unbearable. However, our high school retreat was well planned with signature activities that brought all new high school students, returning students, faculty and staff together to engage and be with each other for a meaningful social time.

For over a year, the pandemic has taught us how to come together virtually, and during that time, we have lost the sense of community and belonging that’s inherently cultivated through in-person, face-to-face interactions. With encouraging news of COVID-19 vaccines and a good sense of how WSP had brought us all back on campus since last October, we now have an idea of what the future of school can be. This year’s high school retreat had taught us that creating opportunity for people to spend time together and rebuild community — not just in the school, but in every aspect of our daily lives — will be more important than ever.

We all belong to a variety of different communities — physical and virtual — but ultimately, we eventually need to come together again in person. As we shift to a hybrid future of whatever it may be, we see a set of nested problems: How can we rebuild our lives that sparks innovation, connection and community? How do we ensure those connections extend beyond our peers? It starts by connecting people at the human scale, a few people at a time. And at WSP high school, we seem to know how to thread around this carefully and mindfully with space and care for each other in coming together.