Chappaqua, NY–-The Lunar New Year, also known as The Spring Festival, marks the thawing embrace of Spring–the ice breaks up and the hardships ease. Ushering in a season of renewed fluidity and hope, the Chappaqua community gathered at the Chappaqua Performing Arts Center on Sunday, February 4th to celebrate the arrival of Spring and the beginning of a new year. The scene, hosted by The Chappaqua Public Library, overflowed with hundreds of families eager to commemorate The Year of the Dragon–a year of power, auspiciousness, and prosperity. This cultural extravaganza displayed traditions, unique to a wide range of communities. Despite the noticeable differences in cultural customs, unity truly shined through with generous volunteers across the state working to make this event as spectacular as it was.
Luck and good fortune captivated the audience with the event kickoff–the Lion Dance. The traditional Chinese and Asian performance imitated the movements of a dragon, in a lively eye-catching costume. Accompanied by the backdrop of a vigorous drum beat, the performance consisted of fundamental movements that are famous in Chinese martial arts. The dragon’s vibrant neons and striking patterns excited the room. Children did not hesitate to express their joy, thrilled to witness a flamboyant dragon cascading through the venue.
Although the audience was regretful to learn that the Lion Dance was over, this celebration of culture did not stop there. The Lion Dance marked the beginning of an afternoon spewing with enticement.
As we transitioned into the season of hope and change, lead event coordinator Cristina Shih enlightened the audience with the rich history of the lunar calendar. After day 15, ancient Chinese civilizations began to clean up their homes to make space for the welcoming of spring.
The audience was quick to shift in their seats, prepared to welcome the Native tribe’s fashion show to the stage. Adorned in the embellished silk skirts of the Dai People, children displayed the pastel blues and blossom pinks whilst taking center stage. The audience was swept across Asia to the Tibetan People where children displayed the traditional Tibetan Robe–a big garment characterized by its long sleeve, loose waist, and silk rims. The performance was nothing short of exceptional.
A fan favorite of the evening was the sensational karate performance, organized by 8th-degree black belt and member of the Jundokan Dojo in Naha Okinawa, Sensei Mark Dwyer. Exhilarated faces filled the audience seats as students of the Okinawa Goju-Ryu School of Karate performed traditional Okinawa styles of Karate, a combination of hard and soft techniques. We witnessed a variety of astonishing linear attacks, as well as fearless kicks and punches. Between every punch, echoes of applause and the sounds of amazement bounced off the venue’s walls. Driven by strength and self-discipline, the students successfully brought a piece of Japanese culture to Chappaqua.
A series of enchanting dances and written pieces such as the Treading Poem were performed, leaving community members in awe and enriched with culture. Hosts Jayden Cao and Phoebe Hawthorne exquisitely led the audience through the event, guiding us as we embarked on a rich path through Chinese history, culture, and tradition.
A sense of community was established on this Sunday afternoon with the noble support of the Chappaqua Public Library and the town who were committed to the success of the event. At the event’s start, New Castle Town Supervisor Victoria Bayard Tipp greeted the crowd with the touching Chinese four-character idiom ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai’ (wishing you happiness and prosperity). Following the program, craft activities and traditional snacks were enjoyed.
Over the centuries, The Lunar New Year has catalyzed the connection between past and present, serving as a tool for unification.
Photos by Aidan Lane and Grace Bennett for the Inside Press