St. Bernard Prep Chinese Class’s Spring Festival This Friday

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St. Bernard Prep

Photo shows Chinese dancers from the Confucius Institute of Troy University, who sponsors the event.

CULLMAN – Students at St. Bernard Prep School are ringing in the Chinese New Year – the year of the monkey – with a Spring Festival in the St. Bernard Dining Hall on Friday, Feb.19.

International culture is shared at St. Bernard, as ten percent of the student body is Chinese, and another ten percent participate in the Mandarin language classes.   Students at the school are becoming more familiar with Asian customs, art and musical traditions. 

Min Gao Calvert teaches Mandarin at St. Bernard Prep and serves as an ESL instructor to many Chinese and American students.   Calvert said the Chinese New Year is based on legendary stories where a monster called Nian would appear every New Year and scare people.  Nian stayed in the deep woods by day and scavenged by night where he ate a different food choice each day of the year; however, Nian was discovered to be afraid of the color red.

Traditionally for the Chinese, New Year was the most important festival on the calendar. The entire attention of the household was fixed on the celebration. During this time, business life came nearly to a stop. Home and family were the principal focuses. In preparation for the holiday, homes were thoroughly cleaned to rid them of huiqi, or inauspicious breaths, which might have collected during the old year. Cleaning was also meant to appease the gods who would be coming down from heaven to make inspections. Ritual sacrifices of food and paper icons were offered to gods and ancestors. People posted scrolls printed with lucky messages on household gates and set off firecrackers to frighten evil spirits. Elders gave out money to children. In fact, many of the rites carried out during this period were meant to bring good luck to the household and long life to the family–particularly to the parents.

Most important was the feasting. On New Year’s Eve, the extended family would join around the table for a meal that included as the last course a fish that was symbolic of abundance and therefore not meant to be eaten. In the first five days of the New Year, people ate long noodles to symbolize long life. On the 15th and final day of the New Year, round dumplings shaped like the full moon were shared as a sign of the family unit and of perfection.

St. Bernard students look forward to sharing these traditions with the Cullman community.  Students are planning booth setups for photographs, souvenirs and real Chinese desserts.  Hands-on crafts will include calligraphy, Chinese knots, origami, Chinese dumplings and a lesson on how to play shuttlecock.

Dinner starts at 6 p.m., with the show at 7 p.m.  Students will perform Tachi, play the Chinese flute and piano and perform Chinese songs.  

Chinese New Year began on Feb. 7 and is celebrated for 15 days. 

St. Bernard is honored to partner with the Confucius Institute at Troy University, who sponsors funding for food and decorations.  Tickets for the dinner and show are $12 each and may be purchased at the school office by calling 256-739-6682. Only 150 tickets are available.