Young performers in colorful costumes dazzled an audience Sunday at...

Young performers in colorful costumes dazzled an audience Sunday at Great Neck North High School for a Lunar New Year celebration. Credit: Jeff Bachner

With dazzling dances and musical performances, a Lunar New Year celebration Sunday in Great Neck offered an intergenerational celebration of Asian cultural heritage.

From children to seniors, many wearing something red, they gathered to celebrate the year of the dragon at Great Neck North High School. The crowd of more than 200 took in performances that included a dance by children dressed in lion costumes along with festive orchestral performances.

The Lunar New Year, said Wenteng Shao, media and communication director for the Great Neck Chinese Association, the organization that helped put on the event, is an important time for families to celebrate and talk about what they did during the past year.

But Shao added, young people of Asian descent in the United States might not see the traditional parts of their cultural heritage on a regular basis.

Sunday’s celebration, she said, allowed them to see how their grandparents might have dressed for similar events when they were young.

“This is the day for them to know who they are,” she said of the young people in attendance.

Lunar New Year is a significant holiday in China that marks the beginning of spring and the start of a lunisolar calendar year, according to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art. South Korea and Vietnam are among other countries that commemorate the Lunar New Year, the museum noted.

And traditional culture was on full display at the high school Sunday.

Families in attendance entered a hallway garnished with red lanterns and other decorations in red, which denotes luck in the new year.

Some children mingled with a costumed panda character, while other children prepared for their performances. Some in attendance took pictures with a person dressed as a statue denoting good fortune.

“I just want more people to be aware of … the Asian presence in the community,” said James Cho, a 17-year-old who was wearing one of the good fortune costumes.

Bill Zhang, a volunteer Sunday who lives in Great Neck, said the event and others give Chinese American youth a chance to better understand their cultural heritage while engaging with the greater community. 

“This is helping them understand where we are coming from; where the roots are,” Zhang said.

Among the performances, at least one dance featured children in brightly-colored lion costumes, while another featured young dancers holding sticks to prop up gold and red dragon characters. In total, there were more than a dozen performances. 

Many of the show’s performers, which included toddlers, teens and seniors, live in the area, said Steven Chen, co-president of the Great Neck Chinese Association.

Chen said the event both celebrated their traditions while welcoming others to join.

“The more you know about each other’s customs and traditions, the less fear there is,” he said.

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