by Jason Kaneshiro
Public Affairs Office
PICATINNY ARSENAL, NJ -- Family and friends gathered Feb. 6 with the Picatinny Arsenal workforce to share a traditional family-style Chinese meal in observation of the Chinese Lunar New Year.
The annual luncheon, sponsored by the Picatinny Asian Society, has been a decades-long tradition at the Arsenal.
"The Asian Society Chinese New Year Luncheon comes from a tradition here at Picatinny of a few people gathering informally to celebrate their culture and identity that go back to as early as the 1950s," said Alan Kong, director of the Picatinny Asian Society.
During the 1990s, the event was only attended by a few dozen employees of Chinese descent, Kong explained. The event has grown since then and this year's event saw nearly 200 participants including Picatinny Senior Commander, Brig. Gen. John J. McGuiness; U.S. Army Armaments Research Development and Engineering Center chief of staff, Pete Glikerdas; and the ARDEC Diversity Advisory Council chairperson Clifford Holmes.
"In Chinese culture, for this event we believe it represents the earth coming back to life," Kong said explaining the significance of the Chinese Lunar New Year.
"It's a new beginning and it's also the time of the year where millions of Chinese from all over the world travel back to their home towns in China to spend quality time with their families and friends.
"At Picatinny, we are following the same traditional Chinese culture is to get together as a family 'once a year' to welcome the lunar New Year."
The lunar New Year is the most important of the annual Chinese festivals and lasts for 15 days, Kong said. For 2013, the year of the Snake, it began on Feb. 10.
"The Chinese believe evil spirits are driven away by loud noise, so Chinese New Year is a very loud celebration," Kong elaborated. "Long strings of firecrackers are set off throughout the holiday, and there are many displays of fireworks lighting up the evening skies."
Perhaps the best known of all traditions is the dragon dance where young men carry long painted dragons, dance along the streets during the lunar month.
"It is my great honor and pleasure to setup an event like this for the Picatinny Asian-Chinese Society and to keep this the tradition going for the 'Lunar Chinese New Year,'" Kong reflected.
"We all should recognize that no matter what culture we are coming from, here at Picatinny, we all are family and we all work toward the same goal: to provide the best products and solutions to our war fighter and to meet their mission need with a high degree of technical competence, dedication and self motivation.
"At the same time, I am also glad everyone who was able to make it to this event got a chance to learn a little bit more of about our Asian-Chinese culture," said Kong.