Although many of us have already celebrated the new year, students at Montessori Educare Academy in Ahwatukee are gearing up for the beginning of another calendar milestone.
On Jan. 23, the school will be hosting a Chinese New Year celebration featuring a performance from the Chinese Cultural Center and many other fun activities for students.
Ying Hong Ma, whose 6-year-old son attends Montessori Educare, has been busy planning the event for her third year in a row.
"I really appreciate that the school recognizes this day," Ma said. "It's such a big deal for me, I'm so happy about that."
Given that it is her son's last year at the Montessori before moving on to elementary school, Ma hopes to make the event "really special."
Her plans include making Chinese dumplings with the help of her husband to serve the students for a snack, along with a presentation about how people celebrate the new year in China.
Other classes will be handing out small Chinese envelopes and making traditional lanterns, according to Head of School Karen Hyatt.
Ma also arranged for a dance team from the Chinese Cultural Center to come to the school and perform a traditional Lion Dance.
According to Ma, the Lion Dance is a symbol of protection for the people, giving them good fortune in the new year and scaring away any evil spirits.
"It's very exciting to watch," she said. "I think the kids will be really happy to see the Lion Dance."
Aside from creating an entertaining celebration for the students, Ma hopes to instill a sense of pride in her son for his Chinese heritage.
She originally moved to the United States from China in 2000, and relocated to the Phoenix area after a brief time living in Austin, Texas.
Ma is overjoyed to be part of a school where parents and teachers expose students to different cultures at such a young age, and has incorporated such values into her own home.
"I want him to feel proud of his culture," Ma said. "At the same time, I think it's going to be really beneficial to the other kids."
Montessori Educare Academy is located at 1244 E. Chandler Blvd. Visit their website at www.montessori-educare.com, or call (480) 283-8885.
• Patrick Ryan is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. He is a sophomore at Arizona State University.