Concerns about the coronavirus had little impact on the Germantown Friends School’s celebration of the Lunar New Year on January 25.

A dozen students from China who are part of the school’s international student program were joined by other GFS students and their friends.

The Lunar New Year observance is the most significant holiday on the Chinese calendar.

The evening included authentic Chinese food plus a variety/talent show that highlighted the students’ artistic talents while allowing the student body to come together in an informal setting.

Penka Slavona is the director of the international student program. “When I started here five years ago,” she said. “the (celebration) was just for the students. It’s expanded since then to include members of the community.”

Slavona said members of the Chinese community were on hand to prepare authentic cuisine for the event.

Some celebrations in China were canceled or curtailed because of concerns about the coronavirus but GFS spokeswoman Michelle Sonsino said those concerns about the virus did not detract from the festivities at the school. The event continued to be joyful and fulfilled our goal of bringing people together and highlighting the traditions of many within our community,” she said. In fact, we had higher attendance than ever before.”

Sonsino noted that none of the native students were native to the Wuhan province where the coronavirus apparently originated or had recently traveled there but said the school had resources available for students who had concerns about the issue.

“We are sensitive to those in our community who have family and friends in China and may be feeling unease or sadness, and we have counselors available for anyone who would like to talk.”

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