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San Diego Unified Celebrates Lunar New Year

San Diego Unified Celebrates Lunar New Year
Posted on 01/24/2023

Several schools in the San Diego Unified School District hosted colorful celebrations this week to ring in the Lunar New Year, one of the most important holidays in East and Southeast Asian cultures, ushering in the Year of the Rabbit and Year of the Cat with performances, dance and music, food and cultural lessons.

Two of the most vibrant celebrations in all of San Diego took place at Rosa Parks Elementary School and Barnard Mandarin Magnet Elementary School, where Lunar New Year events have deep roots in their communities.


Girl with Lion Dancer in costume

Rosa Parks Elementary continued a longstanding tradition by hosting its annual Tết Celebration, welcoming families and the City Heights community to what has become one of San Diego’s best-known Vietnamese cultural festivals. The event has been hosted since 1998 in partnership with the Vietnamese Parent Association, which includes current and former Rosa Parks families.

Now in its 25th year, the Tết Celebration featured lion dancers, drumming and traditional music, and student performances.


Students and adults in Vietnamese traditional clothing

Board of Education President Sabrina Bazzo, Vice President Shana Hazan, Trustee Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, and Deputy Superintendent Dr. Fabiola Bagula were among those who joined the celebration throughout the three-hour event. San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit and representatives from the offices of Mayor Todd Gloria and City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera also attended.

An equally spirited celebration took place at Barnard Elementary, where families and members of the community flocked to the school’s Lunar New Year Festival for a colorful parade of performances representing Chinese and other Asian cultures.


Barnard Panda and Lion Dancer

As part of the school’s focus on Mandarin language immersion, the annual event is a staple at Barnard. This year’s celebration was opened by City Councilmember Kent Lee, and featured traditional dances and performances by Three Treasures Cultural Arts Society, The Chinese Cultural Center, Samahan Filipino American Performing Arts, Hsi Fang Temple, Sunshine Studio and more.

An estimated 2 billion people across the world celebrate the Lunar New Year, including Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Malay communities, among others. The origins of Lunar New Year date back as far as 3,500 years, to the Shang Dynasty in China.

This year, the Lunar New Year began on January 22, but celebrations and travel usually last for several days.

While most Asian countries and cultures are celebrating the Year of the Rabbit, as is determined by the Chinese zodiac calendar, Vietnam observes the equivalent Tết Nguyên Đán and marks this year as the Year of the Cat.

Vietnam shares 10 of the Chinese zodiac calendar’s 12 signs, with the differences being the rabbit and the ox, which are replaced in the Vietnamese calendar with the cat and the buffalo. Researchers suggest the variation may be explained by differences in pronunciation between the languages, or due to differences in the animals’ historical importance within each culture.

To learn more about Lunar New Year and how to continue the celebration here in San Diego, see the links below: