By Kelly Korenak and Doris Smith
The annual Lunar New Year event at the Bedford Free Library returned in person on Saturday, Jan. 21, to an excited and joyous crowd. More than 100 participants visited the library throughout the afternoon, engaging in a number of crafts and games and enjoying a spectacular musical performance.
Nicole Monk, Head of Children’s Services, said, “The Bedford Library has been hosting a Chinese New Year celebration for years. We are thankful to the Chinese community that has made this possible. And we are thankful for the PDC (Parents Diversity Council) who helped us expand the celebration to Lunar New Year and recognize other countries and communities that also celebrate at this time of year. We look forward to continuing to partner and bring awareness of other cultures and celebrations to the library and the families of Bedford in the future.”
As participants entered, they were greeted by a table overflowing with books about Lunar New Year from the library’s collection. From there, children immediately fanned out to the craft tables arrayed across the room.
Some activities were similar to those from years past, such as the Chopstick Challenge, while some activities were new this year, including trying to solve wooden Kongming puzzle locks, and a fish craft. Fish are an important symbol of the holiday to wish good fortune for the new year, so children built the scales of the fish out of cut-up egg cartons and attached a new year message written in calligraphy to the tail.
Representatives from the Korean-American Bedford Residents Association, who were new to this year’s celebration, shared some popular Lunar New Year games frequently played in Korea.
The first game was Jegichagi, a traditional outdoor game in which players kick a paper jegi into the air over and over, trying to keep it aloft. A jegi is similar to a shuttlecock, and is made from paper wrapped around a small coin.
Guests also played Ddakji, sometimes called Ttakji, a game popular with children using folded paper tiles, where the object is to make the other player’s tile flip over.
In addition, members of the Boston Korean Traditional Dance Academy were on hand to show some elements from a Korean fan dance, from the traditional hanbok they wore to the fan used as part of the dance. Children were able to practice waving and unfolding the fan themselves.
Midway through the event, in between the crafts and music, everyone was treated to a couple of stories read aloud, such as the children’s book My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz.
There was also a musical performance by three Bedford students: Karen and Kalie Jia, fifth graders at the Lane Elementary School, and their brother, Kangbin Jia, a seventh grader at the John Glenn Middle School.
As the performers set up, all eyes in the room were riveted on the guzheng – a stringed instrument about five feet long that is positioned horizontally as a keyboard would be. Joining the guzheng were the xiaoran, a Chinese lute, and the hulusi, a free wind instrument. The students explained each instrument and played several songs, entrancing the audience.
The chair of PDC’s Davis school group, Roopa Bhusnurmath, expressed her appreciation for the families who volunteered to share their cultural traditions with the community and the opportunity to learn more about Lunar New Year. After listening to a story about celebrating Lunar New Year in Korea, she noted that the words for mom and dad were the same in Korean as in some regional languages in India. Roopa said, “It was great to hear and absorb the similarities in the different cultures around the world.”
The Parents Diversity Council welcomes any families and caregivers who want to share their cultural traditions or just want to connect with other families to build a more inclusive Bedford. To get involved, email [email protected].
The next community event for families at the Bedford Free Public Library will be an event to celebrate and learn about the Jewish holiday of Purim, to take place on Saturday, March 11 at 3 p.m. It will include a puppet show, as well as crafts created in partnership with Temple Isaiah in Lexington.
Note: Kelly Korenak is president of the Parents Diversity Council