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Region celebrates Lunar New Year

Waterford — Shuntai Wang of Waterford typically celebrates the Lunar New Year by gathering with friends and family at a party at one of their houses, where everybody brings their favorite dishes.

The Chinese community in the region also enjoys performances of songs and dance, such as the traditional Lion Dance, and Chinese dishes at the Southeastern Connecticut Chinese School and Southeastern Connecticut Chinese Cultural Society's annual celebration — held in past years at East Lyme High School — to mark the beginning of the Lunar New Year, the most important holiday in Chinese culture, he said.

Friday was the start of the Lunar New Year.

Wang said he enjoys gathering with people who share the same cultural heritage, but with the pandemic he understands that’s not possible this year. He, and many people in the region, are still finding ways to keep the traditions alive by celebrating at home in small gatherings with family.

Wang cooked traditional dishes, including dumplings, on Thursday, and Friday morning called on friends and family members in China. He planned to carry the festive atmosphere into the weekend to celebrate the beginning of the Year of the Ox.

His children received red envelopes with some money to use during the year. He explained that traditionally, children would kneel to parents and grandparents to show respect to the older generations, while the older generations would make the children happy by giving them the gift.

Wang and his wife, who work at Pfizer, both immigrated to the United States from China more than two decades ago. He said it’s important to keep the traditions alive even during a pandemic, and he wants to pass the heritage down to the next generation.

“Everybody should have their heritage,” he said. “We keep educating our kids what the people think and do and say in the Chinese cultural heritage.”

He pointed out that the United States is “a melting pot” where people share some common values but also bring their diversity. Whether it’s St. Patrick’s Day for the Irish or the Chinese New Year, or any of the holidays celebrated by the numerous cultures represented in the United States, he said it’s good to keep culture alive.

“This is actually the power of the United States,” Wang said. “We are united as one people, but in the meanwhile we’re diverse and we bring different good things into this culture.”

While most people in the region celebrated at home, some events continued. At Mohegan Sun, the Lion Dance for the Lunar New Year continued this year; it was limited and held outdoors, but people could view a livestream of the celebration, Director of Asian Communication Cindy Liu said.

Qimin Liu, a professor at Eastern Connecticut State University who lives in East Lyme, said traditionally for Chinese New Year, he typically gathers with several friends, usually with each one bringing a dish. They eat dumplings as the main course and also have fish to symbolize prosperity. People give one another red envelopes to show good luck and as a gesture of appreciation.

This year, he planned to celebrate at home with his family by gathering around the table for a hot pot and to relax, put everything away and enjoy the moment.

Even though the gathering is smaller due to the pandemic, he said they are still celebrating and cheering one another up to have a new perspective for the new year. He said it’s important to put away the bad luck of the past year and welcome the new year and have a new beginning.

“You feel the spring is coming and the prosperity is around the corner,” Qimin Liu said.

k.drelich@theday.com

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