Wishing you prosperity! Please bring me my ‘hongbao’! BISS is alive once again with a blaze of red as students and teachers have donned festive red or Chinese outfits to bring in luck for the Year of the Tiger.
Over the last two weeks, students throughout the school have experienced the rich cultural heritage of Chinese New Year celebrations and explored and appreciated the symbolism of all the festive activities. The Chinese red lanterns and tiger-themed art adorning the school set the festive mood. The Primary drummers and dragon dancers on Monday gave a dazzling performance to bring luck to the school and the BISS community. Students in both Primary and Secondary made and ate汤圆 (tāng yuán, sweet rice dumplings) or 饺子(jiăozi, meat dumplings) to symbolise the coming together of family and community at Chinese New Year.
Last Thursday, Primary students had a day of excitement and fun at our BISS Temple Fair. Laughter rang out with a range of chopstick, lantern riddle and kick the shuttlecock competitions. Traditional folk crafts, such as tiger masks, calligraphy, fan, and plate painting allowed the children to explore Chinese culture and then be creative with their own ideas. In Secondary, students researched and created their own Beijing Opera face masks, explored Chinese poems, and created their own poem pictures and learned about the Chinese New Year Eve dinner. Other subjects also had a Chinese New Year theme with linguists studying the characteristics of tigers in modern languages. Mathematicians worked collaboratively to solve Chinese New Year Tangram and Chinese Zodiac puzzles in the Nord Anglia Maths in China Competition and the Lunar New Year Calendar Challenge.
At BISS, not only are these celebrations fun, but they are also important in developing the tapestry of rich experiences and memories that create our school traditions and those of our children. By developing cultural literacy in our children, they develop the ability not only to understand and learn about other cultures, but also to celebrate their own culture. By knowing ourselves and feeling secure in our own culture, we can all maintain our identities and embrace those of others. In this way, we equip our children with essential skills and a positive international mindset.
This last term, we have had several activities aimed at exploring how different cultures celebrate aspects of life important to them.
At the end of October, Secondary students had fun painting their faces with skulls and symbols of death for Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. This Mexican festival respects and remembers the lives of the dead. It allows our children to experience the idea of death in an atmosphere of joyful celebration.
In November, students celebrated the Festival of Light. The Indian festival of Diwali focuses on colour and light to bring joy and happiness. Secondary students had the opportunity to make colourful Rangoli designs and fragrant candles. A range of Indian curries was offered throughout the week at lunch time and students were thrilled to see a beautiful Bollywood performance by the BISS School of Dance.
In December, we explored exciting Christmas and New Year traditions from around the world and across the year groups. Sinterklaas, the Dutch Saint Nicolas, visited the school with gifts to bring smiles and joy to our students in the Shanghai Dutch School. Santa Claus at the BISS Winter Fair also delighted children who had been good this year with a lovely gift. Year 6 students cooked all week to prepare for an ‘End of World War 2’ street party. Some EAL, German and French classes in the Primary and Secondary Schools made tasty Christmas cookies and traditional snacks and cakes. In Chinese lessons, some Year 9 students made miniature Christmas scenes depicting Christmas in Russia, Korea and Western counties and described them in Mandarin.
In celebrating festivals, we also encourage students to engage with the deeper meaning that underpins many celebrations. Traditionally at Chinese New Year, red envelopes are given to share blessings. We ask all students to donate 10 yuan as they don their red or Chinese costumes on the last day of term. The money is then donated to the Huaxin Rehabilitation Centre so that we can give a big ‘hongbao’ to support the amazing work they do with disabled children. At Christmas, our students engaged with the spirit of Christmas by participating in charitable activities and by thinking about others at this time. Through The Giving Tree bag activity and the Year 12 students’ fundraising for Heart2Heart, we ensure that students experience the true meaning of Christmas. I was heartened to hear a parent at the Winter Fair extolling the virtues of one of our students who gave to her the prize that he had won in the raffle and that she had set her heart on. When the student saw her disappointment at not winning, he came to comfort her and to give her the prize that he had won. The parent was overjoyed by his kindness. He had shown the true spirit of Christmas by thinking about others.
For me, this was a touching example of the value of learning about the deeper meaning as well as the visible, external fun aspects of cultural festivals. The ability to put oneself in other people’s shoes is an immensely valuable life skill as well as one that equips students to embrace and to be ‘highly effective’ in the multicultural world in which we live.
We are looking forward to having lots of luck and good fortune in 2022! We will follow this up on the last day of term with musical and dance performances from BISS students and some professional Chinese minority dance performances showing Mongolian, Xinjiang, Yao and Tibetan dances.
On behalf of all at BISS, may I wish our pupils and the whole BISS community a healthy, happy and successful 2022 at the start of the Year of the Tiger.