Each year, the PKS community gathers on campus to celebrate Chinese New Year with a day of festivities, performances, music, dancing, games, food, and more.
It’s 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 4. Dozens of parent volunteers are buzzing around campus, rushing to put up the final decorations for the daylong celebration. Photo booth props are laid out to the sound of the band tuning their instruments, a string of flags is pinned up under the main tent, and Master Leo’s lion costumes sit waiting to be brought to life.
By 10:00, families begin to stream in, many wearing the colorful silks of traditional Chinese dress. Children from each class wear coordinated outfits for their performances. Some are showing off 1920s Shanghai-themed costumes for PKS’s role in the San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade.
The students gleefully find that their classrooms have been transformed into activity stations for games and crafts; some immediately reach for colorful feathers to play “pin the tail on the rooster,” while others lob ping pong balls into painted jars. Teachers and volunteers oversee calligraphy lessons, a 毽子 (Chinese hacky sack) making station, and an area to learn 围棋 (Go) and 跳起 (Chinese checkers).
The mounting excitement is brought to a peak by the sound of booming drums and cymbals. Students rush out of the classrooms to watch the dragon bob and weave through the crowd on its way to Pioneer Hall, mini-lions trailing in its wake, to kick off the student performances. Master Leo takes the stage in his lion costume, jumping and dancing in front of the preschool crowd. Some preschoolers giggle and clap in awe, while others hide their faces, frightened of the lion’s large teeth and thundering footsteps.
The preschool classes then take the stage, dancing and drumming to Chinese songs. Some students are wearing big smiles, thoroughly enjoying the applause and attention, while others look nervously at their teachers, mimicking their dance moves. Preschoolers perform 舞狮, (Lion Dance), 福气 (Wishing You Good Fortune), 拜年 (New Year Greetings), 得意洋洋 (Happiness and Joy), 踏雪尋梅+鳳陽花鼓, (Plum Flowers in the Snow & Drum Song), 步步高 (Stepping Up), and 拜新年 (Happy Chinese New Year).
At 12:15, students participating in the Chinese New Year Parade give the crowd a sneak peek of their performance. The boys sport long, grey robes with fedoras, while the girls model their 旗袍 (silk dress) style 棉袄 (cotton padded jackets). The procession of smartly-dressed students parade again towards Pioneer Hall, signaling the start of the elementary performances.
Not to be outdone, the elementary students are up next. One kindergarten class performs 十二生肖(The Twelve Zodiac Signs) as the twelve zodiac animals, with each student wearing a homemade character mask. First graders perform 金狮拜年 (The Golden Lions Wish You a Great New Year) and 嘻哈新年 (Hip-Hop New Year). Second graders sing and dance to 过年好 (Happy Chinese New Year) and 我想长大 (I Want to Grow Up). Third graders are a hit with 恭喜恭喜 + 中国话 (Gong Xi Gong Xi & We Love Chinese) and 说唱脸谱 (New Year Drum & Beijing Opera). The fourth graders perform 青春修炼手册 (Let’s Celebrate Being Young), with each child narrating a portion of the script, and one child playing the piano to accompany.
After the performances, the students, free of responsibility, are finally let loose. The older students meet up with friends and classmates to wander through the classrooms, eagerly trying the crafts and activities, while the younger ones impatiently drag their parents through the halls. Throngs of students squeeze into the photo booth to take pictures with their friends and family. A Chinese opera singer performs and tours the school.
And of course, a hungry crowd requires plenty of food! The celebration organizers do not disappoint -- food trucks from Hongry Kong to Happy Dumplings pull into the back lot to provide lunch.
Although the weather becomes blustery and rainy, the students’ excitement and enthusiasm is not dampened. They stick close together as they travel from room to room, squeezing their way through the crowded hallways. Groups of students cluster together under the tent with tangled yoyo strings, as they try to twirl the toy as masterfully as the volunteer does. The opera singer emerges from the photo booth, taking small, measured steps toward the tent. She takes the mic and nods at the band, and begins to sing Chinese opera arias to accompaniment. The younger students stare at her glittering costume in awe, while the older ones giggle at the unfamiliar sounds.
The sky begins to clear, and the sun peeks through the clouds. Students emerge from the classrooms to play on the wet playgrounds, as parents gather their belongings and urge the children to do the same. Some of the preschool students are fast asleep in their parents’ arms, already worn out from the commotion of the day. Volunteers stand by the gate, red envelopes and fortune cookies in hand. Students reach eagerly for their treats as they head home to enjoy what remains of their weekend, before school returns to normalcy on Monday.
Happy Year of the Rooster to all! We look forward to celebrating with you again next year!
Special thanks to parent volunteers and our generous sponsors - Whole Foods, Wells Fargo, Gus’s Community Market, Sprogs, Little Monkey and Mouse, the Asian Art Museum, Panda Kung Fu Center, Gu-Zheng Society, Trader Joe’s, Chung Ngai Dance Troupe, Gotcha 2 Smile Photo Booths, JC Graphics and Printing, Chinese Newcomers Service Center, and Dragonfly Designs.
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