PINE BROOK, NJ – The Year of the Monkey was ushered in on Friday, Feb. 12 at Hilldale Elementary School. The school’s 363 students, along with faculty, staff and parents enjoyed a Chinese New Year celebration planned and executed by the Montville Township Chinese community. 

To celebrate the Year of the Monkey, the students first enjoyed a traditional display of Chinese dance, complete with drums and a dragon. According to lore, the dragon, a well-known symbol of Chinese culture, is able to breathe fire, summon wind or rain, fly into the clouds or hide at the bottom of the sea.

This energetic display was followed by a tae kwon do demonstration led by S. Pavlou, and members of the S. Pavlou Tae Kwon Do school in Pine Brook. Master Pavlou has been training and teaching Tae Kwon Do for over 35 years and is a 7th degree Black Belt who has fought in over 200 competitive tournaments. Tae Kwon Do emphasizes respect for others, personal growth and the value of education. Hilldale students who are enrolled in Master Pavlou’s after school enrichment class or at his school demonstrated a series of moves, followed by a traditional display of “breaking wood.” Principal Jill Cisneros joined in the fun and broke a wood board. Her prowess was awarded with loud cheers by the student body. 

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A student fashion show topped off the New Year’s celebration. Over forty students donned traditional Chinese clothing of robes, hats and dresses, known as pienfus, changpaos and shenyi. This clothing features embroidered edges, silks, sashes and decorative bands. Teachers Kelly Forst and Gary Dedoussis, a.k.a. Mr. “D,” even took a turn down the catwalk. The Hilldale students – all of whom were asked by the Student Council to wear red to celebrate the New Year – cheered wildly for their teachers and classmates. 

Each student also received a goodie bag filled with traditional Chinese tokens of good luck. The entire Hilldale community had fun ushering in the Year of the Monkey.