Red-letter day

Chinese New Year comes to a class of second-graders by
way of red envelopes
Friday, January 23, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:25 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

It’s a new year, and second-graders at Russell Boulevard Elementary are all a bit richer. If you’re thinking you’ve missed something, don’t worry. The world is not on fast forward.

Thursday marked the first day of the Chinese New Year, and local restaurant owner Amy Chow used the occasion to visit her niece’s classroom to give students a quick lesson on the holiday and a bit of money.

All of the children got a paper placemat with their Chinese zodiac sign according to their birth year. Almost all of them were born in 1996 – the year of the rat.

“You’re a rat!” Brian Kurukulasuriya said to a classmate sitting next to him.

Celebrations started Wednesday night in China.

“Families in China all have dinner together and stay up very late,” said Chow, owner of the House of Chow. “Everyone sets off firecrackers to get rid of all the evils.”

Chow told the second-graders that kids in China can’t wait to get up on New Year’s Day. “They all dress up and get these red envelopes from their family,” she said as she handed each child a small red envelope with gold Chinese characters. The characters translate into “Everything follows your will.”

The children opened the envelopes as shouts of “I got a dollar!” “Do we get to keep this?” and “Are we supposed to spend this?” erupted in the classroom.

Chow assured the children that the money was theirs but advised them to save it, not spend it. .

“I’m going to put it in my money box at home,” said Nida Al-Ramahi.

The celebration of Chinese New Year lasts several days and is a time for family bonding.

“It’s a lot like your Christmas,” Chow said.

The House of Chow celebrated New Year’s Eve with a big dinner for its employees.

Mike Wong, owner of the Hong Kong Market, said he’s waiting for the weekend to celebrate.

“I’m going to my sister’s in Fulton to have a big dinner and celebrate on Sunday,” Wong said. “I had to work late last night and the rest of the week.”

The market is carrying special items for the new year, such as soft candy of dried persimmon and rice cakes.

“These will make your year a happy one,” Wong said.

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