Bethany library marks special day with events

BETHANY — The Year of the Horse gallops into the Clark Memorial Library, 538 Amity Road, Saturday, Feb. 1.

In celebration of the Lunar New Year and in recognition of National Bring Your Child to the Library Day, community members and library staff are organizing an afternoon of presentations, stories and crafts all as a way to show children and families that using the library is an economical means of exploring the world.

This is the first time Clark and town residents have combined efforts to highlight the ethnic resources of the community and library.

“It all began when two active members of the library asked to put together an exhibit demonstrating the breadth of Asian cultures, particularly as a way of celebrating the Lunar New Year,” said Melissa Canham-Clyne, library director. “What followed was an incredible response from library users and supporters. Many people have contributed art from their private collections to show the expanse of Asian culture into everyday life.”

The exhibit, organized by volunteers, is on display at the library until Feb. 15.

Jim Hsiang, Bethany Library Association trustee and long-time town resident, and his wife Judith Hsiang approached the library staff with the idea.

“Lunar New Year’s day changes every year in the calendar that we use. But the tradition goes on. Just what is the tradition? We and the library, invite our community to learn more than the media coverage of the Year of the Horse,” said Jim Hsiang. “We especially encourage our Asian residents to come and share, remember, and tell stories of what New Year means. Let us recall that the thousands of year old New Years’ Celebration was born in an agrarian society: a good crop to come was the overriding concern. These days, the universal feelings of hope and optimism still prevail.”

The Lunar New Year is one of the most important celebrations in China and several other Asian countries. Usually the new year begins on the second dark moon following the winter solstice. The first day of the month in the Chinese calendar falls on the darkest day of the month. In China the New Year is known as the Spring Festival, which lasts for fourteen days. The culmination of the celebrations is on the fifteenth day and is known as the Lantern festival. By celebrating the Lunar New Year for two weeks the days move from the darkest to the brightest as the moon passes through its phases.

As with any holiday there are many traditions, origin myths and stories. One of the best known tradition in the United States is the astrological cycle of years marked by the name of an animal. There are twelve animals assigned to each year in the cycle. Each year is believed to share attributes with its animal and people born with that year do as well. Animals in the cycle include the rat, rooster, horse, sheep, monkey, dog, pig, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, and the snake.

Restaurateur, library supporter and Bethany resident Gang Guo said, “This is the Year of the Horse and the horse is associated with success, so this should be a successful year.” Setting aside his usual menu of contemporary cuisine, Gang plans to share one of the most important aspects of the holiday with his patrons by offering a menu of Chinese and other Asia dishes on Jan. 30 at his restaurant, The New Harvest Restaurant, 57 South Main St., in Beacon Falls.

It just happens that the Lunar New Year celebration falls on Bring Your Child to the Library day, which is a nationally recognized library holiday dedicated to encouraging parents to introduce their child to the public library. The day began as a local tradition in Connecticut and caught fire with librarians across the nation.

“We are really glad that this all happens at the same time,” said Clark’s children’s librarian Dorothy Esparo. “Libraries are all about sharing and learning. We are about books but we are also about people.”

“Whether you have a library card or not, we invite all families to come use the library as a magic carpet to take us all to Asia on Saturday,” said Canham-Clyne. “Oh, we will make sure you leave with a library card, if you don’t have one.”

Activities start at 1 p.m. with a tour of Chinese art and culture presented by local resident Tracie Zhu. Following her program, Jim Hsiang explains the importance of Lunar Year celebrations and traditions. Tying in the spirit of children’s programming, library director Melissa Canham-Clyne offers a special story time and crafts for children. An introduction to Chinese opera concludes the festivities. Refreshments will also try to reflect the traditions of the Lunar New Year.