Westwood kids learn about the Chinese calendar, myths and food

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Jason Hawk | Wellington Enterprise
A handcrafted Chinese dragon parades down the hallway of Wellington’ McCormick Middle School on Friday, Jan. 31 to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

JASON HAWK
EDITOR

Blake Irwin had an important job Friday. He was in charge of getting the crowd noisy.

With a gong in hand, the second-grader marched through the halls of Westwood Elementary School, leading an impressive-looking dragon.

“This is the time when you don’t have to be quiet,” teacher Catherine Selzer told her students, and they erupted in cheers.

As they studied Chinese New Year, Wellington kids learned about myths that say loud noises, such as firecracker explosions, scare away evil spirits.

Some carried pellet drums and rattled them down the hallways, chasing Selzer’s undulating dragon.

Of course, not everyone needs noise to scare off the monsters. Jasper Barnes, an eight-year-old in Kim Foster’s second grade class, said he has a dog named Joker that sleeps close to his bed and keeps him safe.

“I sleep pretty well because he’s right there next to me,” Barnes said.

To celebrate the holiday, students were also treated to a Chinese food feast for lunch and learned to use chopsticks.

“It was really cool. On the back of the package there was a little thing that taught you how to use them,” said Josephine Kazmierczak. “That’s good because I didn’t know.”

“They were hard to use,” said her classmate, Samantha Sprowls. Both said they were experts by the time the meal ended.

Chinese New Year — or Lunar New Year, since North and South Korea celebrate it too — isn’t a single day, like our American New Year.

Preparations started Jan. 17 with the “Little Year” and the Spring Festival ran from Jan. 25 to Feb. 4.

Now comes the Lantern Festival, a four-day observance of family reunions and ancient spiritual traditions that ends Feb. 8.

According to the Zodiac, 2020 is the Year of the Rat.

The rat is the first of the Zodiac animals and represents a brand new day, a period of renewal. Clever and industrious, rats are also considered a sign of wealth in Chinese culture.