Students perform a dragon dance at a Lunar New Year...

Students perform a dragon dance at a Lunar New Year arts festival Monday at Syosset High School. Credit: Barry Sloan

A favorite memory of Angelina Kwong, 17, is watching dragon dancers wind through the tables, stepping to the drumbeats, at a Chinese restaurant where her family went one Lunar New Year.

“It was just so loud. Everything was echoing and everyone was celebrating and jumping around together,” said Kwong, of Jericho. “That energy of happiness and celebrating a new year was just a great experience.”

Dragon dances are particularly popular this time around, as Saturday ushers in the Year of the Dragon. School districts across Long Island, including Great Neck, Plainview-Old Bethpage, Glen Cove City, Middle Country and Freeport, have planned activities in the days surrounding an important holiday in some Asian countries. Some schools will host dragon dances or parades, others had students make paper lanterns and color paper dragons.

Children take part in arts and crafts at the festival Monday...

Children take part in arts and crafts at the festival Monday at Syosset High School. Credit: Barry Sloan

In previous years, some districts recognized Lunar New Year as a school holiday. Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation last September to declare it a holiday in all public schools statewide. It's the most important holiday for China. Other Asian countries, including Vietnam, Korea and Singapore, also celebrate it.

“My favorite part is spending time with family,” said Aaron Liu, 16, a junior at Syosset High School who lived in China for a few years when he was in elementary school. He fondly remembers the sounds of fireworks exploding throughout the night.

Known as Spring Festival in China, the holiday often comes with new clothes, money-filled red envelopes and family feasts. One of Liu’s favorites is dumplings.

“I feel like food is one of the happiest things that you can get in life,” Liu said. “If you have food, life is good.”

Students perform a traditional Chinese dance at Syosset High School...

Students perform a traditional Chinese dance at Syosset High School on Monday. Credit: Barry Sloan

Liu played piano and clarinet during performances Monday at the first Lunar New Year Arts Festival, held at Syosset High School. The festival attracted hundreds of visitors who lingered before a display of 132 pieces of student-made artwork.

High school senior Ashley Ko, 17, was glad to see young children dabbling with calligraphy. “I think it's really important to offer our tradition and culture to the younger generation,” said Ko, who helped organize the festival.

Many activities are planned for Friday, though some will take place next week.

Students perform a lion dance Monday.

Students perform a lion dance Monday. Credit: Barry Sloan

At Jericho High School, students will host a bake sale, a dumpling workshop and dragon dances, according to Josephine Soong, 17, and Kwong, co-presidents of the school's Chinese Honor Society.

In Birch School, an elementary school in the Merrick district, Principal Kerri Galante and others will parade down the halls in dragon masks and capes — an annual tradition a teacher and custodian started many years ago, Galante said.

To Laila Song, 16, a high schooler in the Half Hollow Hills district, the dragon dance is a must-see.

Song often goes to Chinatown in Manhattan with her family on the holiday. When she was little, she would run toward the drumming noises streets away to catch the dance and feed red envelopes of tips to the dancers.

“I love the holiday,” she said. “It’s a chance to have fun in my culture.” 

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