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Naval District Washington community services celebrated the Chinese New Year with the students of the Glenelg High School in Howard County, MD on Jan. 18.

Chinese-Vietnamese New Year is celebrated on the first day of the first month in the Chinese calendar in many countries in Southeast Asia. In this year, the Year of the Horse, NDW Regional Community Service Program Manager, Olivia Hunter, was invited as a guest to be a part of this special event. She was asked to present the World of Thanks awards to several students and administrators of the Chinese School who participated in the Full Honors Arrival for the Commander of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), Adm. Wu Shengli, in September 2013.

“I was honored to be able to present these awards to these amazing individuals,” said Hunter.

Hunter recognized, among others, the Howard County Chinese School (HCCS) principal Dr. Guowei Zhang and Petty Officer 2nd Class Mary Lee attached to Fleet Readiness Command Maryland who was the liaison and interpreter. Also recognized were four students of the Chinese School for submitting their art work to Shengli at the full honors arrival ceremony. The awardees were: Kassie Wang, Angela Wang, Angel Voo and William Peng.

An estimate of more than 1,000 guests including students, faculty and teachers participated in the celebration.

At Chinese New Year celebrations participants wear red clothes, decorated with poems on red paper, and give children “lucky money” in red envelopes. Red symbolizes fire, which according to legend can drive away bad luck. The fireworks that shower the festivities are rooted in a similar ancient custom. Long ago, people in China lit bamboo stalks, believing that the crackling flames would frighten evil spirits.

Chinese legend has it that in ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each one. He announced that the people born in each animal’s year would have some of that animal’s personality. Those born in horse years are cheerful, skillful with money, perceptive, witty, talented and good with their hands.

“I was truly honored to have been a part of this event. There were representatives from the HCCS Board giving speeches and representatives from the Chinese Embassy who were the VIPs that spoke, I think it is really great how the Howard County Chinese School brings about Chinese culture awareness and provides a cultural and social platform for the local community, said Hunter. “This program attracts people of the Chinese culture from all around the county and beyond.”

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