MONTVILLE, NJ – The Montville Township Public Library hosted more than 100 people Jan. 30 for the Lunar New Year, which is celebrated by the Chinese and Korean cultures. There were games, food, dancing and explanations of the traditions and symbols of each culture’s celebrations.

“The Korean Lunar New Year, which will be celebrated this year on Feb. 8, is represented by a variety of very bright and happy colors, like red, orange, gold, or even green,” explained Cherina Hong, who volunteered with the Korean group.

“The Korean Lunar New Year is all about spending time with your family and doing Jesa, which is when we put many delicious foods on a big, low table and place our grandparents’ picture on top of the table while praying for her spirit,” Hong explained.

Sign Up for E-News

“Then, children make a big bow to the adults and receive some money after saying ‘be healthy and live a long life’ to the adults, which in return, the adults say ‘be healthy and listen to your parents well.’ After receiving some money from the adults, the children put their money in a lucky pouch. 

“As a Lunar New Year tradition, we use Bokjori, which are ladles made of bamboo, as decorations. You can also give them to others, which means they will receive an abundance of luck.”

The Korean group also presented a drum dance, and visitors to their table could play the stick game called Yut, or the jacks-like game called Jaeki.

The Northern New Jersey Chinese Association presented the dragon dance, a slide show explaining the Chinese Lunar New Year symbols, and stations around the room. Visitors to each station could have their name written in Chinese; practice writing the Chinese word for spring, which is considered good luck; and enjoying a Chinese rice cake or tangerines.

“The rice cake is a dessert, and it stands for progressing and developing year after year,” explained Anita Tung, Principal of the Chinese Association’s Chinese School. “The tangerine represents a lucky and auspicious year.”

“The Lunar New Year has been used for more than 3,000 years, since the Xia dynasty,” explained Andrew Hsieh, a student at the Chinese School. “The Lunar New Year is an important Asian festival celebration, also known as the Spring Festival. There are many traditional ways of celebrating the Lunar New Year, such as writing the Chinese character for spring.

“In ancient China, there was a legendary evil monster with a horned head and a gigantic mouth, which hid in the remote mountains. Towards the end of the year, it would come out to eat people and animals. People hung red fabric on their houses to scare the monster away, or locked themselves indoors and placed meat for the monster outside their doors on the eve of the lunar new year. This was called the ‘offering for the monster,’ which evolved to ‘happy new year’ wishes.”

“We reached out to the Chinese Association and the Korean Church because of the English Language Learner classes we have at the Library,” said Director Allan Kleiman. “This was our first year to hold such a large event, but both groups have had a relationship with the Library for many years. For example, we have a collection of Chinese books due to the Chinese community in Montville. We’re definitely going to be doing this event again, and we’ve actually already started planning it so we can include more people! It was a great chance to bring Montville Township residents together. We’d like Montville Township residents to see the Library as a place to go for cultural activities such as this.”