Over the past three years, the students of Ms. Zephyr’s 4th-6th grade class at Instilling Goodness Boys School in the City of 10,000 Buddhas have raised $9,000 for charity by making and selling lanterns for Chinese New Year.
The boys first started making the lanterns when they read about them as part of Zephyr’s curriculum which explored different festivals around the world. She admits that she didn’t know much about Chinese New Year or the Lantern Festival before her students showed interest in learning more about them.
Together they learned that the lanterns have been made for 2,000 years during the Chinese New Year celebration which begins at the new moon on the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar (Feb. 10 this year), and ends on the full moon of that same month (Feb.23 this year) with the Lantern, or Shangyuan, Festival. The lanterns represent the light of the full moon and bring prosperity and good luck. In China, it is a tradition for adults to give children red envelopes (often with money inside) over the New Year season. Many banks often hand out red envelopes at this time too. The children then make lanterns with the envelopes through a process of cutting and folding.
Zephyr’s students decided they wanted to learn how to make these traditional lanterns and asked the monks at the City of 10,000 Buddhas to show them how. The lanterns are somewhat difficult to make but all the students seem to agree that they’re also enjoyable.
“I like making the lanterns because they are fun to make and you actually have to try to make them. You can’t just put them together quickly,” says Gino, a fifth grader in his first year of making lanterns.
Another student, Daniel, in fourth grade, says, “I feel proud when they are finished.”
The students chose to put their new skill to good use and sell the lanterns in order to raise money for different causes.
“Kids are very compassionate at this age (10-12 years old). They decided on their own that they wanted to do the fundraiser,” Ms. Zephyr explains. Their fundraiser has brought in $9,000 over the past three years for relief organizations helping those who were affected by Hurricane Sandy and the earthquake in Haiti, as well as local charities including the Ukiah Food Bank. The proceeds from the boys’ lantern booth this year may go to the Red Cross for the building of a water purification plant in Haiti. The students are also hoping to raise $800 so they can take a trip to the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkley.
The students are quite the experts at making lanterns now and teach each other how to make them. James, in sixth grade, a lantern-making veteran, says, “They seem much easier to make than last year. I have more practice now. One of the most difficult parts is cutting the envelopes.”
James, along with his classmates, will be teaching the public how to make lanterns at the Lantern Festival in Ukiah on Saturday, 2 to 5 p.m. on the 300 block of South School Street in Ukiah, adjacent to Alex Thomas Plaza. The boys want to share their knowledge of Chinese culture with the city while raising more money for charity. They will be accepting donations for their demonstrations in addition to selling pre-made lanterns. Ricardo, a 5th grade student in Ms. Zephyr’s class, says enthusiastically, “The lanterns are fun to make and I hope to sell lots of them!”
The Ukiah Lantern Festival, organized by Ukiah business owner, David Haas, is in its second year. Many Chinese cultural activities are planned including a traditional dragon dance and performances by the drum team from Developing Virtue Girls School. But you can’t have a Lantern Festival without lanterns, so make sure to stop by the Instilling Goodness Boys School booth–you’ll learn about another culture while supporting a noble cause.