Kindergarten students at Kingsley Elementary School, 2300 Green Bay Rd., performed the “Lion Dance” on Jan. 24 to usher in the Chinese New Year, a festival that celebrates the beginning of a new year on the traditional Chinese calendar.  The 2020 festivities are from Jan. 25 to Feb. 8.

The colorful dancing lion made its way down the Kingsley hallway, with two students balancing the oversized dragon-like head, and their classmates manipulating the body of the costume, dipping up and down to the beat of traditional Chinese drum and flute music. The Dragon Dance is also popular during the holiday. The dances are meant to bring good fortune during the coming year.

“We have two mythical animals. One is a lion and one is a dragon,” said Camilla Ho. In traditional Chinese culture, the lion, like the dragon, existed only in myth. Historians believe there were no actual lions in China until the year 220 AD, when a few reached China from Silk Road trade.

The celebration was an activity in teacher Kelly Post’s class, organized by Camillia Ho, whose grandson, Oliver, was among the young performers. Their fellow kindergarten students lined the hallway to admire the procession. Ms. Ho taught the students the dance steps and provided recorded music for the occasion. She also sewed the body of the costume by hand, using a lion head she purchased 45 years ago in San Francisco.      

“Chinese New Year is the biggest holiday in China. They’re already celebrating because they’re 14 hours ahead. We also call it Spring Festival. One of our traditions is little red envelopes filled with money. Adults give them to children, who get together and use it to buy toys. It’s like Christmas,” she said.

Karen Ho, who is Ms. Ho’s daughter and Oliver’s mother, prepared a poster for the classroom featuring 2020 as the year of the Rat, the first of all zodiac animals. The Chinese zodiac features a 12-year cycle, with each year represented by a specific animal.

“It’s important for all of us to celebrate our heritage and culture,” said Camillia Ho.

Heidi Randhava is an award winning reporter who has a deep commitment to community engagement and service. She has written for the Evanston RoundTable since 2016.