“It has been celebrated for 2,000-plus years in China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Laos,” said Barnard’s principal, Edward Park. “There’s a huge amount of folks practicing, and people get to see the ways that different communities celebrate — whether it’s the type of food you eat, the type of outfits you wear, the cultural component of respecting the elders or the bowing ceremony.”
Barnard’s fifth annual event, which is free and open to the public, will feature traditional lion dances, martial arts demonstrations, classical Chinese music performances and other live entertainment by cultural partners throughout San Diego and the talented students at Barnard Elementary.
“We reached out to the Chinese-American community in San Diego and all the Asian communities that celebrated the Lunar New Year, and they all came along to perform for our school,” said Park. “It started small, but gradually the word spread.”
Now, the diverse festival boasts a number of strong community partners — like Balboa Park’s House of China, the San Diego chapter of the Korean-American Coalition, Panda Express and San Diego State University’s Confucius Institute — and draws hundreds of San Diegans from across the county who take part in the festivities, with upward of 800 guests and participants, including political and business dignitaries, enjoying the food, culture and entertainment entrenched in the Saturday afternoon celebration.
“The feedback is wonderful. We have potential parents wanting to see if they can enroll their kids. We have groups from the outside — politicians, community members, business folks — who want to see how they can participate and bridge their organization to one of the largest public school districts in the nation,” said Park. “It’s a win-win for many groups, including our school.”
Barnard’s unique and cutting edge education model, which includes immersion in the Chinese language and culture, was recently honored at the Confucius Institute Conference in Beijing as the International Confucius Classroom of the Year.
“It’s a gigantic recognition internationally where many presidents of universities around the world have gathered to look on our district as having the best,” said Park. “Barnard just happens to be leading the charge, and we hope to create more schools like it.”
Park said the celebrated school programs are often unnoticed by the immediate community.
“The second largest minority group in San Diego is Asian and Pacific Islanders. There wasn’t a cultural bridging component before, and now there’s a strong one. And we’re just beginning,” said Park. “We’ve got a gem in the Peninsula area, but the folks that are participating and coming to see our amazing program are people outside of the area, so we want to see more of the Peninsula realize and embrace and foster this event by attending and checking it out.”
Barnard’s Chinese New Year celebration will take place at the school, located at 2930 Barnard Street in Point Loma, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Feb. 23.
For more information, visit www.barnardelementary.com or call (619) 224-3306.