In addition to offering lessons and life skills, the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club also offers seasonal activities and provides opportunities for children to learn about other cultures.
Club members received it on Wednesday. A day after the start of the Lunar New Year, the children learned about the traditions of the holiday, enjoyed a Chinese buffet and were treated to a lion dance, courtesy of Eastern Ways Martial Arts in Sacramento.
Festivities took place at two sites: the Fairmont Charter Elementary School, where the VNBGC offers an after-school program, and the main site of the Trower Center club.
Anna Eaton, the club’s executive director, told The Reporter that the club has held Lunar New Year celebrations for at least five years as another way to expose children to different cultures.
“We’re all about exposing culture and opportunities and new experiences for kids,” she said.
To prepare, Eaton said the children created red paper lanterns which they hung in the reception area and streamers with tigers at the end, as 2022 is the year of the tiger.
Eaton said it was a good way for children to be educated about different cultural traditions at an early age.
“The more we share our differences and cultures, the more understanding we can create,” she said. “I think kids need to have that kind of exposure early on to appreciate the different cultures around them.”
Eaton herself is Vietnamese and was also able to share some lessons from her own culture with the students. During the assembly, she wore an ao dai, a long Vietnamese dress.
“It’s a bit fancier than what they would wear in my country, but for New Years we are definitely bringing out the fanciest,” she told the young crowd. “When I go to celebrate with my family this Sunday, even though the New Year has already passed, we are all going to dress up specially because it is a special occasion.”
Eaton also explained the importance of certain Lunar New Year traditions, such as lighting firecrackers to scare away evil spirits and offering red envelopes with money. She explained that the envelopes were red because the color symbolizes good luck.
“Usually the older people in the culture give you — the younger ones — that red envelope because we want to wish you a happy new year and we want to pass the luck on to you,” she said.
Eaton then introduced Eastern Ways, led by Chief Instructor Sifu Hubbard, who explained that Lunar New Year had three main components: family, food and the lion dance. While dragon dances are a common feature of Lunar New Year parades and other festivities, Hubbard explained that dragon dances are performed by up to 10 people, while lion dances are controlled by two.
Eastern Ways had two separate lions performing routines accompanied by drums, a cymbal and a gong. The lions moved around as the children clapped and accepted the red envelopes they gave them. At one point, the lions “slept” and were awakened by the cries of children.
In another routine, the lions would trample heads of lettuce, “eat” the pieces and spit them back into the crowd.
Hubbard explained that it also had a symbolic meaning. Lettuce represented money and lions ensured prosperity by spitting lettuce back at them.
“If you get lettuce landing on you or you catch it, it’s like catching money,” he said before the dance. “It’s considered good wealth, so you never throw lettuce away because then you throw away your money. I hope some of you have some lettuce on you, if you’re lucky.
Fortunately, many children have had lettuce thrown at them.
After the assembly, the children enjoyed a feast that included sweet and sour pork, chow mein and fried rice.
Eaton reiterated that she hoped the students would have appreciated the different cultures.
“It’s a fascination that we have to cultivate in them,” she says. “Some of the children already knew because they were here last year, and they remembered what they had learned. The more they learn about different cultures, the more there will be an appreciation for differences and similarities. .