Welcoming the Tiger with a Roar

“Louder!” cried one 4th grader as he and his class marched into the library. “LOUDER!”

Library Assistant Caity Pittenger didn’t seem to mind—in fact, she enthusiastically waved the marchers right into the room.

It’s unusual that students parade around the Lower School making as much noise as possible, but this was a special day. The parade, part of the students’ study of the Lunar New Year, is a traditional Chinese way to ensure luck for the coming year.

“There’s a monster called Nian, and he would come to a village every year, but people knew he hated the color red and loud noises, so they did it every year,” said Ivy ’30, who—like almost all of the students—was sporting red. “You make loud noises and wear colorful stuff, and you’re happy, and that scares away the bad spirits.”

Any bad spirits hiding around campus would certainly have fled. Each of the 4th grade classes took a different path, passing a lion head from one person to another so everyone got a turn to lead. There was also much negotiation around trading instruments—a tambourine was swapped for a pair of maracas, while finger cymbals were handed off for a pair of drumsticks.

As the students marched around the Groome building, Lower School Principal Adele Paynter popped her head out of her office. “Don’t forget my office!” she called. “I want ALL the bad spirits gone!” The students loudly obliged, banging their way through her offices and into the mysterious spaces usually occupied only by teachers. When a parade entered one of the kindergarten classes, they were greeted with cheers (and a few students putting their hands over their ears). In the echoing staircases the din reached particularly impressive levels.

Reya ’30 was “kind of” familiar with the Lunar New Year before beginning to study it, but her family doesn’t celebrate it at home, so “I was happy to learn more,” she said. She especially likes learning from her friends who do celebrate. “I have a lot of friends from different cultures,” she said, “and they celebrate in different ways.” For example, Korean households welcome the Lunar New Year, called Seollal, with tteokguk, a rice cake soup; in Vietnam, people decorate houses with flowers, especially chrysanthemums and orchids, in celebration of Tet.

The 4th grade day ended with classroom parties, where students who celebrate Lunar New Year at home shared interviews they conducted with their family members about their traditions. Ivy’s family celebrates the Lunar New Year at home. “We have a good old family dinner and invite all of our relatives to set off firecrackers,” she said. She likes the fact that she had the opportunity to celebrate at School, too. “It makes me feel welcomed, because I can relate to other people and teach them all sorts of stuff.”

The event wrapped up with students eating snacks and receiving lucky red envelopes from their teachers. But it was the noise that truly made the day. The banging, ringing, clapping, and clunking carried a special kind of joy, as this parade was the first since the pandemic began. With the return of this tradition, the Year of the Tiger already feels like a lucky one.

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