Ringing in the Year of the Rabbit
If you walked by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center's Sherman Auditorium last week at lunchtime, you would've been greeted to the sound of drums and the sight of a multicolored, jeweled lion spilling into the hallway. For a second year, staff brought a taste of the Asian Lunar New Year to colleagues through a celebration of dance, music, martial arts and historical accounts.
"According to legend, a dragon would come down from the mountains each year on the new year and eat livestock, crops, and sometimes, villagers," said master of ceremonies John Yeh, MD, Chief, Obstetrics and Gynecology. "To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their homes. Later, they learned that the dragon was afraid of a child it saw wearing red. So red lanterns and scrolls were put up."
Luckily, the animal entertaining staff was nothing but friendly. The Lion Dance, performed by members of Woo Ching White Crane, moved to the beat of drums, tossing oranges and candies into the crowd. Catching these goodies brings you good luck, he said. And speaking of luck, 2011 is the year of the rabbit in the Chinese zodiac calendar - the luckiest sign, according to Yeh.
BIDMC staff treat thousands of Asian patients a year, especially through a partnership with Chinatown's South Cove Community Health Center. Chinese is the second most requested language for interpreters, said Eric Buehrens, Interim President and CEO. Yeh said 13 percent of OB/GYN patients - or one in seven - are of Asian descent. And of course, the medical center employs staff from all over the world, including many Asian countries.
"Having a diversified staff makes us culturally sensitive when treating patients," Yeh said.
Nancy Eng, Executive Director, Chinese Cultural Society of New England, gave a historical overview of Chinese immigration to New England, talking specifically about traders, scholars and workers. She said not many people know that Chinatown sits on a landfill, which is why Beach Street seems out of place in the middle of the city. It originally did have an ocean view. Eng shared photos of a Chinese ship's visit to Boston Harbor in 1847, as well as old advertisements for restaurants in Chinatown like Hong Far Low, which occupied space on Harrison Avenue in 1879.
"In 1870, French Canadian workers at Sampson Shoe Factory in North Adams went on strike and Chinese immigrants were brought it to break the strike," Eng said. "The towns people showed up to meet their train planning on fighting with them. But they were so stunned with what the Chinese immigrants looked like, that the crowd just parted and let them pass."
Two members of the Longwood Symphony Orchestra Lisa Wong, MD, Neonatology, and Mabel Chen played Mozart's Duo for Viola and Violin. Chen then went on to play a violin solo of a traditional Chinese piece Lady Meng Jiang, originally written for the Chinese flute, which is thought to have been the first instrument dating back to 6000 BC, Wong said.
"We love playing traditional pieces," Wong said. "We have performed as a duo as part of outreach to South Cove Community Health Center and the Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence."
The event concluded with members of Woo Ching White Crane taking center stage to showcase Kung Fu martial arts forms. The students' fluid movements were punctuated by drumbeats and cymbals. The Lion then reappeared making a spirited exit up the stairs, past the crowd and out of the auditorium. As staff left the celebration, they were presented with the new year's symbols of good luck - oranges and candy.