Students celebrate Chinese New Year with traditional song and dance

The Chinese Culture Club, Koinonia and Rice Bowl joined together on Saturday to celebrate the Lunar New Year. The Lunar New Year celebration at Wheaton is an annual tradition that brings students of all backgrounds together for a night of food, fun and cross-cultural exposure.
On Saturday, several students performed traditional songs and dances from their home countries, while others prepared food and drinks for guests. Sophomore John Slaughter said, “It was a pleasure to come experience diversity of culture.” Slaughter and several friends came to enjoy the delicious food and support friends involved in the performances.
Senior Jennifer Fu, president of Koinonia, helped head the event. She also performed a vocal solo of the Taiwanese song “Wife” while her parents watched through Skype. Fu said that the purpose of this event is to showcase and invite people to experience different cultures that celebrate the Lunar New Year. She also emphasized that Koinonia, Chinese Culture Club and Rice Bowl seek to use this event to provide international students a piece of home during this culturally significant holiday. Because the most important part of this holiday is the reunion of family, this event is particularly important to international Asian students, as it brings them together with their alternative and diverse family at Wheaton.
Traditionally, each Lunar New Year is associated with one of 12 Chinese zodiac animal signs. 2015 has been declared the year of the goat, the eighth Chinese zodiac. Those born in the year of the goat are said to be creative and thoughtful, well suited for jobs requiring imaginative thinking. Many artists, authors and celebrities, including Michelangelo, Mark Twain, Julia Roberts and Bruce Willis, were born in years of the goat.

A student performs during the Lunar New Year festivities. Photo credit: Abriel Lee
A student performs during the Lunar New Year festivities.
Photo credit: Abriel Lee

An interesting debate recently arose over the translation of the 8th Chinese zodiac. The Mandarin word “yang” is one that is loosely translated in English to either goat, sheep or ram. Lala Zuo, a professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, was interviewed by NPR and claimed that all three translations are correct, though the translation depends on context. For example, Zuo argues that the goat is more commonly seen by people in China, but that in the smaller country of Korea, sheep are more likely to be seen. Wheaton and most of the world chose to side with the more popular translation and celebrate the year of the goat.
This year marked the celebration of the 4,713th Lunar New Year on Feb. 19. This holiday was originally tied to the Chinese lunar-solar calendar. However, since the adoption of the Western calendar in 1912, the traditional Lunar New Year celebration has changed drastically. Now, many younger generations refer to the celebration as the Spring Festival and see it as a chance to relax from work, whereas older and ancestral generations traditionally viewed it as a time to renew family ties. The traditional new year celebration was a multi-day holiday during which business life came to a stop so that families could focus on being together and, most importantly, feasting.
While many refer to this holiday as the “Chinese New Year,” this holiday is also celebrated in many countries, including Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, the Philippines and in Chinatowns across the world.
It is celebrated much like the American New Year: The eve of the holiday is the biggest night of celebration, with dancing and feasting, and the turn of the new year is celebrated with fireworks. Individuals and families also focus on luck during this holiday.
Many international Wheaton students have grown up celebrating this holiday with their families. Sophomore Lindi Barkman of Rice Bowl said that it is hard for students to be far from home during this celebration. She likened it to American students being away from home for Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Barkman grew up in Japan where they only celebrate the Solar New Year. She said, “Wheaton was the first place I celebrated the Lunar New Year, and I love it so much! For me, this time of celebration … has become a time of deepening friendships and getting to know more people.”

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