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When the dragon comes to kindy...
From humble beginnings, Kidsfirst Lady May’s Lunar New Year celebrations have become an annual kindy event. Decorated from top to bottom, the kindy celebrates the day with the children dressing up for the dragon dance, a huge lunch with whānau and everyone taking home a traditional red envelope.
Now in it’s fourth year, the Lunar celebration is a way to welcome in the community, teach the children an array of learning outcomes and most of all, celebrate the diversity the kindy is so proud of.
Teacher Yvonne Holmes says the celebration’s growth and popularity has all come down to the community’s response.
“When we first started celebrating Lunar New Year we made envelopes and put wee sweets in each because we weren’t sure where to find things that depict the Lunar New Year but since then, there’s been real community backing and it’s grown in strength each year.”
ABOVE: Grandmother Lang Phuong attends Kidsfirst Lady May's Lunar New Year celebrations with her son.
Some of that backing has come from grandmother Lang Phuong. With five grandchildren at Kidsfirst Lady May and originally from Vietnam, its families like Lang Phuong’s that Kidsfirst Lady May is serving so well.
“I remember the first year,” says Yvonne “Lang came in and saw our little handmade envelopes, and although she couldn’t speak much English, her face just lit up and we knew we’d be doing this celebration again.”
With a large number of Asian families and a growing number of Pasifika families, Kidsfirst Lady May know its their approach to cultural diversity that single them out.
“There’s so much diversity between kindies now because it’s really a case of matching the communities we are in. We have a name in the wider community as a place that treasures and shares cultural experience and there’s this great two-way communication happening between us and our community, it’s how we shape each other.”
ABOVE: Kidsfirst Lady May teacher Shil Bae and some of the children get in costume to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
True to their early childhood qualifications, Head Teacher Gae Thawley says the day isn’t all about celebrations; it’s been a real journey in terms of learning outcomes as well.
“We plan out the festivities so that each child can learn about what we are celebrating. They’ve learnt about the 12 animals for the Chinese Zodiacs signs, researched the year of the snake, painted fish in red and gold for luck and finally worked together to dance with the dragon. For some of our children, this week is about learning more of other cultures and traditions.”
With the celebrations growing each year, Lunar New Year will no doubt be back again next year at Kidsfirst Lady May and as new children and new cultures join Gae says there will be other ways to celebrate them as well.
“Each term we try to find a way to celebrate our families – who knows, a Pasifika festival could be next!”
KIDSFIRST KINDERGARTENS ARE A NOT FOR PROFIT ASSOCIATION THAT HAS DEVELOPED AND MAINTAINED KINDERGARTENS IN CHRISTCHURCH, CANTERBURY AND ON THE WEST COAST FOR OVER 100 YEARS - AS THE PLACE LOCAL KIDS COME TO LEARN, PLAY AND HAVE FUN.
Kidsfirst Lady May celebrates cultural diversity with Lunar New Year celebrations.
Diversity is an important part of kindergarten say the teachers.
The children at Kidsfirst Lady May heard about the zodiac legend that Jade the Emperor had asked all the animals to visit him in heaven. The first 12 animals to make the meeting were rewarded by being chosen as the 12 phases of the zodiac.
Giving red envelopes at social and family gatherings such as the Lunar New Year is a popular tradition in many Asian cultures. The red colour of the envelope symbolizes good luck and are often decorated with gold characters symbolizing happiness or wealth.
While traditionally the envelopes contain money, at Kidsfirst Lady May the envelopes contained gold coins and a red envelope was given to each child according to the custom. If you want to try making your own red envelopes at home take a look here.