Disclaimer: because of the close relationship the author has with the organizers and performers of this event, the article may be a little (or a lot) biased.
Even though the actual Lunar New Year (Year of the Horse!) has come and gone (the actual date was Jan. 30th, talking about “belated”), this Lunar New Year celebration last night co-hosted by almost all Asian student groups in Wesleyan still stirred up some festivity in this drizzly weather. Hosted annually, a Lunar New Year festival is becoming part of the Wesleyan tradition for most Asian students and for the entire Wesleyan community.
The ticket sale went very well, according to the organizer Tian Qiao ’15, one of the co-chairs of the Chinese Cultural Club, selling well beyond 100 tickets before the event. At $5, each person gets to enjoy a whole series of performances and a delicious meal. No wonder the event is sold out almost every year!
Decorated with red lanterns, Beckham hall was dressed in Chinese red, the classic color of Spring Festival. The sight of fesitivity coupled with the sweet smell of food instantly put smile on everyone’s face. A nice touch by the hosts, there were paper and scissors and scotch tapes on each table, with instructions on how to make a paper lantern. It was an easy and fun project, and taught the guests a little about this old Chinese craft. People experimented with it and chattered away as they waited for the show to begin.
Starting off the event is a video introducing the Spring Festival tradition, including customs, food, and events. It captivated the attention of the attendees. Most present are Asians who knew these practices well. But it was a short but to the point introduction for those who came here out of curiosity and for the food. Personally I loved that the video showed a crazy crowded scene at a supermarket – that kind of shopping spree before the Chinese New Year where you are simply in a traffic jam of people is definitely a unique experience!
The emcees of the event, Melissa Leung ’16 and Eriq Robinson ’15, introduced the first program of the day – a performance by a Chinese Ensemble. Immediately transported us into a different time and space and followed by a series of rich and diverse performances, including break dancing, westernized Chinese music, Chinese pop song, Kung Fu showcase, Chinese ethnic music and folk music, etc., the cultural show presented Chinese culture against a modern and western background, embracing both the old and the new, the orient and the occident. The show ended with a rare encounter with Chinese folk singing. Ms. Sun Wei, a graduate student, sang a modern Chinese folk song. The distinctive singing style and melody made this perhaps the most unique performance of the night.
Some highlights of the night include: the opening mini Chinese Music Ensemble
Dat Vu ’15 breaking like a king (again)
A Kung Fu performance by Alison Lam ’17
Our beloved Spirits singer Ben Jacobs ’14 singing his part of a Chinese pop duet
The final folk song performance by Ms. Sun Wei.
The disappointment of the night, however, was the food. I’m willing to bet that the prospect of food, especially good food, was why most people came. Despite a job well done by our student chefs on the first three classic Chinese dishes, the main course of the night was Chinese take out. Not that there’s something wrong with getting a caterer, but the event had falsely advertised “home-cooked food” to attract guests. I’m sure General Tso’s chicken deserves its popularity, but for the occassion, I’m not sure that’s the best we can do.
In general, though, I would not hesitate to call this night a success. I went to the event skeptical – I was a little worried, judging from past experience, that the hall was going to be filled with only Asian faces, turning a night of promoting Asian/Chinese culture to the entire Wesleyan community into an exclusive event produced and consumed by Asians, which would be pretty pointless in the context of Wesleyan. That absolutely did not happen. People of different ethnicities and nationalities came for various reasons, diversifying the event way beyond my expectation. I may have even spotted a family, probably from Middletown. Even though not every one has vested interest in Asian culture, there are definitely more and more people making a commendable effort to learn about it, for which I am certainly grateful. An even more important progress is that the Asian community itself is opening up, integrating and accepting American culture gradually instead of rigidly following the ways things are done back home.
In the end, it was a festive night filled with joy and laughter. The regret of not being able to spend Lunar New Year with my own family is somewhat alleviated by spending it here with friends. And for me, that’s what this celebration is about – building a home away from home.