Every year, to celebrate Lunar New Year, the city of Auckland organizes an event called the Lantern Festival. Over the span of a few days, green the city is transformed into a magical space full of decorations, food vendors and cultural activities. This year, to accommodate the thousands of visitors to the Lantern Festival, it was held at the Auckland Domain – the city’s oldest park which spans 177 acres. The Auckland Domain is full of hiking trails, green space, the Auckland War Memorial Museum and beautiful indoor gardens. My visit to the Lantern Festival was absolutely incredible; I have never experienced such a large and vibrant Lunar New Year celebration! I originally visited the festival at night when all the lanterns and displays were lit up – it was breathtaking. I decided to visit the festival again the next day, this time in the morning with my friend Shirley, who was kind enough to explain the symbolism and folktales behind the displays, and act as my ‘tour guide’.
My visit to the Lantern Festival inspired me to make more of an effort to learn about the cultures of my students. Kindergarten students bring a wealth of prior knowledge into the classroom and by knowing a bit more about their cultures and traditions, we are able to engage in authentic conversations with them. Schools (and classrooms) are a place of interactions and connections among members of a community. Rinaldi (2006) describes schools as a place where “relationships combine a profound respect for otherness, and difference with a deep sense of responsibility for the other, a place of profound interdependency” (p. 72). This view about the role of community, schools as public spaces and the belief that all children bring with them a unique interpretation of the world around them resonates with me deeply.
I plan on sharing my experience and photographs to our students next year during Lunar New Year Celebrations in our classroom. I am curious to hear about what their traditions at home look like, photographs they may have, and the learning our dialogue will spark.
Happy Lunar New Year from New Zealand!
Rinaldi, C. (2006). In dialogue with Reggio Emilia: Listening, researching and learning. Psychology Press.