On Saturday February 13, 2021, the Summit Area YMCA partnered up with the Berkeley Heights Diversity Council, Giving Back Club and Han Academy to virtually celebrate the Lunar New Year, also popularly known in the U.S. as the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival. The event kicked off with a wonderful lion dance performance by the Garden State Lion Dance group, followed by educational and fun cultural videos discussing the Lunar New Year and its customs throughout Asia.
Berkeley Heights Mayor Angie Devanney made opening remarks, acknowledging the community partners who planned the event; reflecting on the past year with the pandemic and the challenges that came with it; how the community joined together to work through its obstacles, and her gratitude towards the Asian community in its support of essential services and donating masks to local first responders at the height of the pandemic. "I have read that the Ox in Chinese culture is a hardworking zodiac sign. It will be hard work that we will come together again to heal our community from COVID19, but if 2020 was any indication of our community connectedness, I am certain we will be successful. I also view the Lunar New Year as an opportunity to exalt and celebrate Asian culture world wide and right here at home in Berkeley Heights. We achieve this by recognizing our very cultures, differences and contributions by ensuring inclusion of all members of our community. And finally the Lunar New Year marks new beginnings and time with family. Well wishes for fortune, happiness and health are thematic throughout this wonderful holiday season. Certainly there is no greater year to begin anew, with tremendous gratitude for our health, happiness plus hopes for good fortune. So it is with the warmest heart that I wish you, 'Gong Xi Fa Cai' to all township residents!"
The Summit Area YMCA, Giving Back Club, Berkeley Heights Diversity Council and Han Academy also made introductions, speaking to their excitement in the partnership in hosting the virtual event, their hope for continued unity and support in the community as well as the importance in raising awareness and celebrating diversity.
Lights and lanterns were lit up at the new Berkeley Heights Town Hall to celebrate the beginning of the celebration, followed by Chinese New Year greetings by students from the Han Academy. Han Academy also provided a wonderful musical performance of Chinese instruments with the Erhu and Hulusi (gourd flute), as well as an engaging Jeopardy game of Chinese New Year fun facts, traditions, food and more, involving all participants to choose questions and answer in the Zoom chatbox.
Local Berkeley Heights resident and Berkeley Heights Diversity Council volunteer Linda Meehan and her son, Leo, shared Korean traditions practiced during the Lunar New Year such as eating special fruit, rice cakes, dumplings and noodles. Another important aspect in Korean Lunar New Year (Seollal) traditions include family time, paying respects to elderly members of the family, ancestors and receiving gift bags often filled with treats and money.
The celebration also included narrated demonstrations of Chinese martial arts by Garden State Lion Dance, story time of How to Catch a Dragon from Berkeley Heights YMCA Child Care program staff, as well as a lantern making craft by Cady and Aaron of Dear Asian Youth of Union County. You can find more Lunar New Year crafts at www.thesay.org/lnyf including how to make an origami Ox envelope with Adelene Chan of Union County Magnet High School!
In addition to the evening's virtual celebration, the Summit Area YMCA, Giving Back Club, Han Academy and Sage Eldercare also partnered to host a Lunar New Year Care Package supplies drive in February to pay homage to the Lunar New Year tradition of honoring our elders and ancestors. Because of the generosity of the community's donations, our volunteers were able to make over 100 care packages that were delivered by Sage Eldercare's Meals on Wheels program to local senior citizens throughout Berkeley Heights, New Providence and Summit!
“It was like Christmas morning!” said a senior in Sage Eldercare's delivery route.
"She loved everything in that bag," said a volunteer from Sage Eldercare, "and she was so excited for the puzzle books and the hat!"
Thank you to all who participated in the Virtual Lunar New Year Celebration, especially to our community partners and volunteers who dedicated time and passion a plenty to planning and coordinating donations. Happy Lunar New Year to all!
See more about the Lunar New Year celebration, crafts to do, recipes and more at www.thesay.org/lnyf
As a charitable nonprofit organization, the Y is focused on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Supporting youth, families and the community in their efforts to spread cultural awareness and appreciation for diversity is core to the Y’s mission to help all individuals to learn, grow, and thrive. Through its programs and services, the Summit Area YMCA is committed to creating a welcoming, safe and inclusive environment for all.
The Berkeley Heights Diversity Council was founded over six years ago to honor and embrace the diverse cultures and perspectives within Berkeley Heights. Our goal is to spread awareness and foster inclusion. The BHDC is open and welcoming to all who reside in Berkeley Heights wishing to celebrate the diversity of our great town together and can be found at www.BHDiversity.org or reached at BHdiversity@gmail.com
Giving Back Club is an unofficial club of young children and adults participating in events to give back to the local communities and people. Past events include organizing food drives, making holiday cards for seniors, hosting recitals at nursing homes, outwear drives and collecting essentials for formerly incarcerated men and women.
As a women-owned learning center in Berkeley Heights, Han Academy provides after school programs, summer camp, and private lessons throughout year with a focus on academic tutoring, STEAM learning and language learning. We strives to promote creativity and quality learning for students between the age of 3-12 in subjects such as English, Math, Robotics, Computer Programming, Mandarin Chinese, Performing Arts, etc. More details can be find at https://www.hanacademynj.com. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 908-350-6000.
Since 1954, SAGE Eldercare has been a unique community resource that offers an array of programs and services for older adults and caregivers promoting independence and quality of life. SAGE is the oldest continuously run home delivered meal program in the state of New Jersey. Each weekday 20 - 30 volunteers deliver nutritious meals to homebound, isolated older adults who are over the age of 60. Our 200 volunteers deliver much more than a meal - they also provide vital daily contact and a friendly visit. For more information please call 908-273-5554 or visit us at www.sageeldercare.org
About the Summit Area YMCA
The Summit Area YMCA is one of the area’s leading 501(c)(3) charitable organizations. Founded in 1886, the Summit Area YMCA has a history steeped in working side-by-side with our neighbors to ensure that everyone, regardless of age, income and background, has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive. Each year, we serve over 15,000 individuals with our free and fee-based programs and services in an area spanning the communities of Berkeley Heights, Gillette, Millburn, New Providence, Short Hills, Springfield, Stirling and Summit. Through the generosity of our members, donors, and partners, we are able to offer financial assistance for our programs and services to those with demonstrated need.