Students welcome Year of Rooster

By Greg Gelpi

Clinging and clanging handmade noisemakers, streams of students, a lion and a dragon heralded in the Chinese New Year Wednesday.

Following the Chinese tradition of chasing off a fabled "monster" through noise, Callaway Elementary School students paraded through the halls of the school as a culmination of their studies of the Chinese culture.

Ashley Taylor and Jezmyne Totton, both 10, crouched inside a multicolored lion costume and performed a traditional dance as part of the parade. The oversized head was made of papiermache, and the body was made of cloth.

Both said they like to dance, but Totton said the Chinese lion dance was "way different" from "regular people dance."

They agreed that the best part of performing the dance within the colorful costume was scaring younger students.

Totton and Taylor said studying Chinese culture made them realize how many products used everyday are actually produced in China and gave them an appreciation of Chinese culture.

Jimmy Nguyen, 7, beat a drum as he paraded through the hallways of Callaway Elementary.

The first-grader of Vietnamese descent said it was "great" because he "got to hear the sound" of the drum.

Creating shakers from plastic plates and using pencils as drumsticks, the children marched around the school, which had walls covered in students' artwork for the celebration, banging away to bring in the new year.

"I was really really pleased," Jo Baker, the music teacher who organized the event, said. "The kids really really seemed to enjoy themselves, but most importantly they learned."

Callaway has a large Asian population, Baker, 47, said. The experience let them and all students at the school learn about a different culture.

"I didn't know if they would enjoy it because it's so different to them," she said.

According to the Chinese calendar, the year is 4702. The Year of the Rooster marks the end of the Year of the Monkey. Next year on the Chinese calendar will be the Year of the Dog.

"People born in the Year of the Rooster are deep thinkers, capable and talented," according to the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco. "They like to be busy and are devoted beyond their capabilities and are deeply disappointed if they fail. People born in the Rooster Year are often a bit eccentric and often have rather difficult relationships with others ... They frequently are loners and, though they give the outward impression of being adventurous, they are timid. Rooster people's emotions, like their fortunes, swing very high to very low. They can be selfish and too outspoken, but are always interesting and can be extremely brave."

The last Year of the Rooster was 1993 in the 12-year cycle of animal mascots.