Coray Alumni Gymnasium burst with students and a handful of faculty, including President Philip Ryken, as they rang in the Year of the Monkey on Saturday, Feb. 13.
The Chinese Culture and Language Club and Koinonia put on “dinner and a show” for the Lunar New Year, which was pushed back a week because Air Jam took over the gymnasium during the New Year. Droves of celebrants clothed in red clogged the north entrance to the Beamer Center as they entered the festival, necessitating a call for extra tables and chairs.
Chinese citizens and those whose cultures are influenced by Chinese culture annually celebrate the Lunar New Year, otherwise known as the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, when the lunar calendar begins. With family and festivities, the Lunar New Year carries the feelings of Thanksgiving and Christmas in a context that non-Asian Americans might savor.
The New Year provides the winter break for some Asian countries and is the largest annual human migration in China, with billions of people traveling across the mainland each year to visit their families.
At Wheaton, the festival offers an opportunity for international Asian students or American students of Asian descent to celebrate the holiday despite being far from family.
Junior Michael Chen, one of the organizers from the Chinese Culture and Language Club, and sophomore Ian Kilpatrick, an emcee from the same cabinet, said one of their goals this year was to share this festival with non-Asians to educate them on the Lunar New Year’s significance. They were excited to “honor God through a different culture,” more than is common at Wheaton College.
“I can’t really celebrate (the Lunar New Year) in Wheaton that much, so having an alternative is definitely pretty cool,” senior Shinyoung Kim said. An international student from South Korea, he has attended this festival for the past three years. He said it has enabled him to “partially have that experience,” even though he was not with family. As a Korean, this year he was also able to learn more about the Chinese traditions of the Lunar New Year.
“I’m happy that there’s this kind of event going on and making TCKs or Asians and international students feel much at home. It’s definitely cool having a party, a lot of people, sharing this with non-Asian American friends,” Kim added.
Using a skit, live music performances and humorous question and answer videos, the performers demonstrated the importance of the Lunar New Year, how they celebrate it and the history behind it. This was a helpful and “major difference” from the past two years, according to junior MaLaysia Mitchell.
“I noticed that there were a lot more people out tonight. I loved seeing President Ryken there . . . and also seeing the chopstick competition,” Mitchell said. She also said that it was “super exciting to see people from all over try to engage in the culture in that way.”
Mitchell laughed as she talked about her experience. “I was one of the lucky winners … The emcee Siya Gu gave Ian Kilpatrick a red envelope (which older or married people traditionally use to give money to younger or unmarried people on the holiday), and with that they segued into giving the audience a sort of gift.”
Since the bottom of her chair held one of the prized golden tickets, she won a goldfish, a red envelope with fish food and a care sheet with instructions for how to care for her pre-named pet, Māo — Chinese for Kitty.
The celebration would not have been complete without a shout out to God, however. Kim said, “I definitely enjoyed how it ended. Regardless of the fact that we come from different cultures and different settings, we all share the mind of worshipping God, worshipping Jesus.” Kim explained, “It’s very meaningful for me to see a lot of people from different countries that are not used to Asian culture still come up and still be here because of their Asian friends or they just like the culture. It’s definitely a cross-cultural experience.”