Manhasset elementary students celebrate Chinese New Year

Manhasset elementary students celebrate Chinese New Year
Munsey Park Elementary School students celebrated Chinese New Year Tuesday, and five of them were invited onstage to learn how to spin plates. (photo by Amelia Camurati)

Shelter Rock and Munsey Park elementary schools were treated this week to a Chinese New Year celebration complete with drumming, acrobatics and a face-changing magician.

Sponsored by the Chinese American Association of North Hempstead, the event has been ongoing at Shelter Rock Elementary School for about 20 years, resident Linda Shang said, and Munsey Park revived the tradition this year with two performances on Tuesday.

Face-changing magician Guohui Ren performed for the Munsey Park Elementary School students on Tuesday, enthralling the children with his many mask changes. (Photo by Amelia Camurati)

“We wanted it to be here because it’s a cultural celebration,” Munsey Park Principal Jean Kendall said. “We have students that are Asian in our school, and we wanted them to see that celebration, and we wanted to make sure our other students see the celebration and appreciate it. This is about celebrating world cultures, and it’s a beautiful thing.”

Chinese New Year, also known as lunar new year, is set for Friday this year, beginning the year of the dog and ending the year of the rooster, Kendall said.

Though a Western calendar was adopted in 1912, David Chiang, the association’s co-president, said the holiday is still widely celebrated as a family tradition in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and more.

“Chinese New Year is a very important holiday on the Chinese calendar. It’s basically combining Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s all together, so we celebrate for two weeks,” Chiang said. “In China during this time of year, we have about 300 million people traveling all over the country.”

Students from both elementary schools performed in a drum line before face-changing magician Guohui Ren and acrobat Lina Liu, captivating the auditorium full of students.

Acrobat Lina Liu balanced parasols on her feet during the Chinese New Year celebration on Tuesday. (Photo by Amelia Camurati)

During Ren’s show, he changed brightly colored masks more than a dozen times both on the stage and in the aisles, confusing students and teachers alike with his quick, invisible changes.

Liu started her performance by balancing six spinning plates while rolling around the stage before moving on to throwing and catching a large yo-yo on the single string in her hands.

Liu also showed off her parasol-twirling skills, but instead of using her hands, she balanced and spun two parasols with her feet, throwing one into the air with the right and catching it with the left.

Students were invited onstage with Liu to learn the art of plate spinning. At the beginning, the five students struggled with the task, but by the end they were able to pass spinning plates between each other on the wooden sticks and all five were able to spin together for the finale.

After the presentation, Kendall urged the students to discuss the adjectives the performances provoked in their classrooms.

Chiang said another celebration open to the community will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Manhasset Public Library with line dancing and a musical performance.

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