Vibrant colors, lights and music enveloped the streets of Belmont during a Lunar New Year event at City Hall. The event, held to celebrate the Chinese New Year, featured a kung fu performance and a Chinese lion dance.
Guest speakers included Mayor Julia Mates, Belmont’s first Chinese-American mayor, and Brenda Song of the Stepping Stones Enrichment Academy. Song introduced the history and culture of Chinese Lunar New Year.
The inspiration behind this event came from the Belmont Public Outreach Committee’s goal of promoting diverse cultural traditions. At the event, Leung Whooping Crane Dragon and Lion Dance Association make a lion the dance, which is a traditional Chinese celebration designed to promote wealth and fortune.
“It’s a diverse community and a large Asian population. It is important for us to recognize these different traditions and cultures,” said Brigitte Shearer, director of Parks and recreation.
To organize the event, the children of Stepping Stone Enrichment Academy, an immersive Mandarin school, provided decorations and set-up assistance. Additionally, the Footsteps Interact Club offered activities for children, such as traditional Chinese calligraphy.
“We had a lot of help. The kids at Stepping Stone Academy all volunteered to help. They donated decorations and the Footsteps Interact Club offered activities and crafts for the kids. So everything happened almost naturally because everyone was so excited,” said Andrea De Lara, one of the main organizers of the event.
However, this excitement was unaffected by COVID-19 concerns as everyone maintained safety measures.
“We have encouraged COVID-19 precautions, such as wearing masks, at least among staff. There were almost no challenges because everyone was in it,” De Lara said.
The event was overall very successful and even attracted citizens wishing to learn more about Chinese culture. Arthur Cheung, a Chinese-American participant, hopes his children can learn about their culture through experiences like this.
“My children are really exposed to Chinese culture through their grandparents. Any real chance for them to understand their culture better is always welcome,” Cheung said.
Others commented on the importance of diversity and being well-educated. For Shearer, understanding Belmont’s diverse culture is essential for the community.
“That’s what makes the fabric of our community so colorful. Expanding our understanding of who is in our community makes us want to work together better,” Shearer said.
According to Cheung, learning about other cultures is key to understanding community, especially in a diverse city like Belmont.
“In the Bay Area, in particular, there are a lot of people from different cultures. It’s good to have an idea of where they come from and what motivations you can connect with. Otherwise, you just see people who look like you, talk like you and think like you without being able to enrich your own life with different stories from other people,” Cheung said.