For the first time, the city's more than 1 million public school kids got the day off in observance of the Lunar New Year. Many visited the Javits Center for a lesson in Chinese culture. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.

Kids from the National Dance Institute are celebrating the year of the Monkey with - what else? - a monkey dance.

"Really, really recognizes the diversity and richness of New York Culture," said Kay Gayner, director of the National Dance Institute/China Project.

The performance was just one of the activities going on at the Javits Center to mark the first day of the Lunar New Year. It was a double celebration, since it was the first time ever that New York City public schoolchildren got a day off to participate in the festivities.

"Kids of Asian background who would normally take off this day because their families want them to be home, now, everybody can enjoy," said Shirley Young of the U.S.-China Cultural Institute. "And then obviously, since they're going to be off, we want them to learn something, enjoy something."      

Javits Center North was transformed into Fantastic Art China, a public art exhibition featuring contemporary Chinese artists. For students like Matthew Chan, it was a chance to celebrate his Chinese heritage without having to miss a day of classes, and let others know about it, too.

"Understanding is what it's all about," Chan said. "Because if other people can understand your culture, you can share it with other people."

While Lunar New Year is primarily observed by the Asian-American community, children of all backgrounds took advantage to learn about a different culture while having fun at the same time.

"I like to see all the artwork because I'm really into art," said student Kelissa White.

"It's already the year of the monkey, and there's 12 zodiac animals," said student Kyler Simon.

Families on hand had the opportunity to do a little monkeying around, learning the monkey dance - this reporter included. Surprisingly, I received a rave review from the experts.

"I would say you have a joy and a spirit of playfulness that is prefect for the monkey choreography," Gaynor said.

Fantastic Art China will be at the Javits Center through Wednesday, and there are plenty of other Lunar New Year activities going on around town.

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