Celebrating Lunar New Year at Herriman


One thing that has become an important aspect of Jordan School District to many students is its fairly widespread Chinese program, with over 1,500 dual language immersion students spanning four elementary schools, four middle schools, and four high schools, including Herriman. One of the biggest holidays in China is the Lunar New Year, and yearly celebrations of the holiday have been celebrated in schools around Utah since students were in elementary school. Last year a new tradition began at Herriman, a night full of fun, learning, dance, song, games, food, and so much more to celebrate the Chinese culture and all of the student’s hard work learning the language. 

This year, on January 26th, the second annual lunar new year celebration at Herriman High brought all grades of students and community members together to celebrate the holiday and the culture behind it. Herrimans new year celebration was the only lunar new year celebration in Salt Lake County this year. It was a very large event run by students, parent volunteers, and teachers at Herriman, Bingham, Mountain Creek Middle School, and Eastlake Elementary. The event was also catered by Fatty Tuna and Panda Express, which had lines out the cafeteria doors all night. 

Without the incentive of needing to take a language course to graduate, some students have stopped taking language classes altogether but Herriman continues to offer many language classes in Spanish, ASL, and Chinese. Chinese is one of the more extensive programs with classes beginning at Chinese 1 for students who are just beginning, as well as AP classes and a bridge college course through the University of Utah for students who have passed the Chinese language AP test. This course gives students the opportunity to graduate with up to nine college credits and a seal of biliteracy. 

As part of the dual language immersion program, students have spent time learning and experiencing the culture along with learning the language. Teachers have made learning fun since first grade for these students by including activities like painting, calligraphy, traditional food, and learning Chinese dances and songs in the lessons. The new year celebration gave students a chance to showcase everything they’ve learned through performances, different displays, paintings, games, etc. There were performances from a few grade levels at Eastlake elementary where many of our DLI students attended elementary school. Learning a language isn’t easy, but when students start learning at five years old and spend half of every school day speaking Chinese, students are pretty much bilingual by the time they reach high school. For both students and parents of younger students who have just started out and still have many years until graduation and even starting preparation for taking the Chinese language and culture AP test in 9th grade, watching older students achieve so much with the language they are still only beginning to learn is very motivating. 

On this topic, middle school Chinese language teacher Micheal Lu said, “The DLI program is challenging.”. “But they progress each day and this is an opportunity for them to see the achievements they have made.”

People can learn so much from cultural events like the New Year celebration, and many people have seen a growing appreciation for Chinese culture in Utah with the help of immersion and world language programs. It can be a great teaching opportunity for the community to learn and have fun experiencing a new culture they wouldn’t otherwise get to. There was a traditional Chinese Dragon Dance that is always a crowd pleaser, and this year a very impressive performance from a junior Ryley Williams who performed a fan dance while riding his unicycle, a representation of a blend of modern and past culture and tradition. Along with the songs and dances, there were short films made by Chinese bridge students reenacting important Chinese history about the silk road, and the Qin dynasty, one of the most powerful and influential dynasties in China’s history. 

Chinese learning students are given so many opportunities to share their culture and apart from the Lunar New Year celebration which is definitely the biggest event of the year, some students got the chance to perform and present at South Jordan city hall for important figures in our community including the mayor and other officials. A dragon dance was performed as well as a presentation brought to life by some of the Chinese program’s best students. Some students also got to perform another dragon dance in the cultural assembly also on the 26th for the whole school.

“We really want to celebrate their achievement and success and to showcase our students,” Herriman DLI Chinese language teacher, Kimberly Chen explained. So many amazing opportunities are given to students that allow them to show the hard work they’ve put into learning a new language. 

Getting to host the lunar new year celebration at Herriman this year has been fun for many students despite all of the planning and work that went into it. Over the years DLI students have gotten to do smaller-scale performances in school for their peers since first grade and now getting to participate in a district-wide event has been a very positive experience for many students, who have already begun thinking about next year’s celebration and how to make it even better. Events like these help students make memories they will cherish long after graduation as having fun learning the culture has become an essential part of Chinese courses and helping bring what they’ve learned to the community makes it even better.