Meadowridge News

The surprising origin of one of our largest traditions

Every January or February, Meadowridge School begins a slow transformation. Parents hang lanterns and drape the school in red, while student performers begin to practice and prepare. Food is organized—an array of teas, treats, and snacks—as are classroom activities, cultural attire, and a full-school celebration. Today, the procession of Lunar New Year celebrations is efficient and smooth-running, a thing to behold. It might surprise you to learn, then, that it wasn’t always this way.

It all began some 18 years ago with two students, lots of cardboard and glue, a couple soup containers, and plenty of imagination and determination.

Sandra and Jasmine picture in Grade 7 (left) and Grade 12 (right)

Jasmine Mah ’09 and Sandra Wan ’09 don’t entirely remember what first sparked the idea. “I just remember wanting to do a dragon dance,” Jasmine laughs. Sandra nods, agreeing, “and I just wanted to help.” It was 2004, the year of the monkey, Jasmine and Sandra were in Grade 7. The two students approached their teacher Mr. Terry Jung and asked if they could perform a dragon dance at school. Met with enthusiasm and support, they were then tasked with creating the dragon head… from scratch! Without many resources, this fell the girls’ creativity and imagination. “YouTube and the Internet were not what they are today!” they explain. Jasmine’s living room became the pair’s hub, a place they spent hours over many weeks working. Creating the dragon head was not without its difficulties.

Lunar New year lion dance

The original dragon head is still being used today

The dragon was going to “eat” the lettuce hung from the doors, so the jaw had to move up and down. They tried a paper towel holder—that broke—but solved the issue with a sturdier wooden dowel. The dragon nose also gave them grief until two painted Noodle Time containers were found to make excellent nostrils – a “eureka!” moment they both remember and relish. It was, as they put it, a project of trial and error and love. “It took us at least a month, on and off.”

In the weeks leading up to the dance, the pair also choreographed some steps, planned for lettuce and red envelopes to be hung, and went to China Town to purchase matching black pants and red shirts (though they can’t agree whose mom took them that day).

Ultimately, the parade was a success and a big moment of pride for the two. For Jasmine, who is half Chinese, the initiative helped her feel more connected with “both of her sides” and came away with a better appreciation for her culture and heritage. Sandra, who was shyer, left feeling emboldened and empowered. “I was never the performative type, and this pushed me outside of my comfort zone.”

As for how their efforts have evolved, the pair is still amazed. “We had no idea what we were doing,” they confess, admiring what the Lunar New Year Celebrations have now become. For this, they commend all the teachers, students, and parents at Meadowridge School. “We just got the ball rolling, that’s all. It was definitely Mr. Jung, Ms. Chow, and all the teachers and parents who have been involved over the years,” they nod. “Starting a project is easy but keeping with it takes a lot of praise.”

See this year's Lunar New Year assembly

Jasmin Mah '09
After graduating from the University of Waterloo, Jasmine went on to earn her Master of Science at the University of Guelph. Jasmine now works as a research consultant for Opto Diode Corporation in southern California.

Sandra Wan '09
Since graduating from the University of British Columbia (UBC), Sandra has been working in different student development roles at the same University. Currently, she is working as the Manager, Scheduling Services, at the UBC Vancouver campus.