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DEIB Better Together: Black History Month and Lunar New Year

Every February we celebrate Black History Month and Lunar New Year. For the entire month, we celebrate Black History to commemorate the significant contributions, achievements, and history of Black and African Americans. From February 1st through February 15th we celebrate Lunar New Year, typically celebrated in China and other Asian countries that begins with the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ends on the first full moon of the lunar calendar, 15 days later. 

Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in history. Also known as African American History Month, the event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating Black history. Among the notable figures often spotlighted during Black History Month are Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who fought for equal rights for Blacks during the 1950s and ’60s; Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American justice appointed to the United States Supreme Court in 1967; Mae Jemison, who became the first female African-American astronaut to travel to space in 1992; and Barack Obama, who was elected the first-ever African-American president of the United States in 2008. There are also many items we use in everyday life that were invented by Black and African Americans. These items range from the golf tee (Dr. George Grant), ice cream scooper (Alfred L. Cralle), potato chips (George Crum) to the home security system (Mary Van Britten Brown), automatic elevator doors (Alexander Miles) and the color IBM monitor and gigahertz chip (Mark Dean). Without the long list of Black Inventors and their Inventions, we would be lacking much of which we depend on today. 

At Playgroup, the children will immerse themselves in the rich culture of Black and African Americans by looking at photographs of past and present influential Black and African Americans, as well as images of Chloe and Evie Gholson’s ancestors, learning about the different cultural artifacts and inventions in the classrooms by way of our artifact box (containing black eyed peas, carolina gold rice, a horseshoe, ice cream scooper, golf tees and a traffic light). There will also be a cultural craft, Basquiat Crown making, curated by Jessica, and delicious snacks, such as plantain and potato chips, representative of the heritage served throughout the month. The children will listen to specially curated playlists by Chili, to learn how African American music has shaped and influenced the musical world, as well as read many of the beautifully curated books which will be on display next to the cultural corner for the teachers to access. It will be a great month for the children to learn and broaden their understanding of Black and African American heritage and culture!

Lunar New Year is one of the most important celebrations of the year among East and Southeast Asian cultures. The New Year celebration is usually celebrated for multiple days, and in 2022 begins on February 1st. China’s Lunar New Year is known as the Spring Festival or Chūnjié in Mandarin, while Koreans call it Seollal and Vietnamese refer to it as Tết. Tied to the lunar calendar, the holiday began as a time for feasting and to honor household and heavenly deities, as well as ancestors. The New Year typically begins with the first new moon that occurs between the end of January and spans the first 15 days of the first month of the lunar calendar—until the full moon arrives. Each year in the Lunar calendar is represented by one of 12 zodiac animals included in the cycle of 12 stations or “signs” along the apparent path of the sun through the cosmos. The 12 zodiac animals are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. In addition to the animals, five elements of earth, water, fire, wood and metal are also mapped onto the traditional lunar calendar. Each year is associated with an animal that corresponds to an element. The year 2022 is slated to be the Year of the Water Tiger. The water tiger comes up every 60 years. The water tiger is action-oriented and represents strength, clearing away evil and bravery. 

At Playgroup the children will celebrate the traditions and rituals of Lunar New Year by seeing and touching the bright red and orange decorations, looking at photographs of Playgroup families celebrating with their loved ones, learning about the many symbols and items in the classrooms by way of our artifact box (containing a Chinese dragon figurine, a lion marionette, a brass tiger, red envelopes, paper lanterns, red items and clothing, symbolic fruits and a plum blossom branch). The cultural craft is paper lantern making, and the snacks will symbolize prosperity, abundance and togetherness. There are also many books on display for the children and teachers to select and read about the holiday. We will close out Lunar New Year with a special Lion Dance which is one of the most important traditions at Chinese New Year, and is performed to bring prosperity and good luck for the upcoming year!