By Ben Bograd
On Feb. 11, performances lit the stage at Millburn High School. People between the ages of four and 70 showcased their talents in front of a packed auditorium, creating a joyous and festive atmosphere as the community came together to celebrate the Lunar Year of the Dog.
The event was filled with a constant flow of entertainment. Craft shows, game shows, and a number of comedy, dance, and vocal performances gave all viewers something special to watch. To cap it off, a fireworks display brought a fitting ending to a jubilant night.
After the performances, red and gold lions led the way to the cafeteria, where guests enjoyed a traditional Chinese feast.
The Millburn Lunar New Year Celebration has been steadily growing in popularity over the past decade. Last year, the event was held at the Milburn Middle School and sold out its tickets overnight; the party moved to the high school this year to accommodate an even larger audience. The change was essential, as more than 1,000 people were in attendance.
Planning such a large event required the work of many people. It was co-sponsored by the Millburn Short Hills Chinese Association and the Millburn Institute of Talent. A group of 24 organizers planned for more than two months, and more than 100 volunteers chipped in to help it all run smoothly. Xiaohui Wang, one of the organizers, described what made him so eager to make the event a success.
“I was inspired by the passion and holiday spirit showed by our Chinese community, and I felt obliged to organize a wonderful event to fulfill people’s hope for a traditional Chinese New Year celebration here in our town,” said Wang.
Wang also described the importance of the New Year Celebration as a means to retain a Chinese cultural identity from generation to generation.
“We’d like to preserve our culture, pass it down to our children, and contribute to our community,” he said.
For many years now, Millburn has seen its Asian population increase. Coinciding with the rise in racial diversity are efforts to embrace a multitude of cultures; next year, students at Millburn schools will be given days off for both Diwali and Chinese New Year.
Organizers wanted to share the New Year’s experience with the entire Millburn community. Mayor Cheryl Burstein, Superintendent Christine Burton and High School Principal Dr. William Miron were all in attendance to join in the fun.
By night’s end, people left awed by the colorful performances, stuffed with delicious food and excited for the rest of the New Year.