BLS Rings in Lunar New Year With a Roar


BLS Dance shows their moves at Tet Festival. (Source: Alex Strand (II))

Boston Latin School rang in the Year of the Tiger with an array of Lunar New Year festivities, including a lion dance performance and the Vietnamese Student Society’s (VSS) Tet Festival.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, BLS observed Lunar New Year virtually last year. With students back in school again, the BLS community commenced celebrations in person with a roar.

Every year, Bostonians gather at the entrance of the school to view a stunning show of the lion dance, given by students from the Wah Lum Kung Fu Academy. This year, the performance took place on January 31.

The lion dance is a traditional dance where performers dress in colorful costumes symbolizing good luck and fortune. Accompanying the showcase are firecrackers and drums, whose loud and resounding sound are meant to scare the evil spirits away.

Since requests for these performances often come up around the New Year, students of the Wah Lum Kung Fu Academy were already familiar with performing it. Along with weekend training and watching others dance, students gained experience by performing in other places such as Malden, Quincy and Chinatown.

“I have been doing Kung Fu and lion dancing for 16 years now, so it is definitely a passion for me. As for the specific dance at BLS, I did spend four years there, so I am happy to be blessing the school,” says Thomas Tran (‘21), a lion dance performer.

To oversee logistics and preparations, BLS Director of Operations Ms. Jesse Kwan was involved in the organizing of the lion dance and assisting with decorations and props.

Another celebration was VSS’s Tet Festival, which took place on February 18. The multi-level event not only reflected Vietnamese customs celebrated during Lunar New Year, but also provided an enjoyable place to hang out with friends.

The festival started with games including paintball, cup fan and mini-golf. The dining hall was ornamented with gold and red decorations, which symbolize happiness, wealth and joy. Another glowing aspect of the festival was the performing arts, ranging from individual singers to the school’s notable dance troupes, including BLS Dance, BLS Breakers and KOREO.

The event usually concludes with a dinner in the dining hall, but due to the pandemic, VSS  shifted to take-home dinners. The dinner containers were filled with a variety of Asian foods such as fried rice, lo mein (stirred noodles), banh bot loc (tapioca encased shrimp and pork wrapped in banana leaf), egg rolls and a refreshment of one’s choice.

Preparation for the event began last December, when VSS split into committees with different responsibilities: finding sponsorships, holding auditions for the show lineup and setting up the show and games.

Adam Lin (V), who attended the festival, says, “It was great to see that BLS students are still able to continue these traditions that have been around even with COVID-19 precautions. The experience was enjoyable and safe due to everyone wearing their masks. The performances were amazing and the students did an amazing job making the event feel as normal as possible.”

Both the lion dance and Tet Festival demonstrate the school’s regard for representation of Asian heritage and the beginning of the Lunar New Year. For many, Lunar New Year is a cultural celebration of togetherness that allows them to be with their families.

Echoing this sentiment, Assistant Head of School Steven Chen reflects, “Growing up, Lunar New Year was a much bigger deal than Christmas or New Year’s Day or July 4, like the big holiday in my family where we would get special cakes. My dad would spend hours making a really special meal for us […] and the time of the year that culturally is really important. I think that’s the importance of why it’s to be recognized.”