Lunar New Year is a significant holiday for China and is also celebrated in South Korea and Vietnam. Credit: File / Mustang News

CAPTION: Cassandra Garibay | Mustang News | The Chinese Student Association Lion Dancing team performed a traditional lion dance at the MultiCultural Center’s Lunar New Year event Feb. 12.

Red lanterns and calligraphy stencils filled the tables as Cal Poly students and members of the San Luis Obispo community gathered around to eat food and watch live performances, celebrating the Lunar New Year.

Cal Poly MultiCultural Center (MCC) members hosted the first-ever Lunar New Year celebration in Chumash Auditorium Feb. 12.

Lunar New Year is celebrated by many Asian cultures that use the lunar calendar, rather than the solar calendar the American New Year follows. Lunar New Year takes place Feb. 16, however many cultures start the traditions early. Comparative ethnic studies junior and MCC student assistant Riley Wang helped put on the event.

“In the past years we haven’t had a very specific Lunar New Year event … so it is nice to have such a big thing for a lot of students,” Wang said. “We haven’t had an event like this and we wanted to bring a little bit of home to school with us.”

Although the MCC celebration was in recognition of a multitude of Asian cultures, the event focused on Chinese and Vietnamese traditions.

“The way we set up the event is very Chinese and Vietnamese centered, and we didn’t want to exclude other cultures, when those other cultures were very, very crucial and important to how our own traditions were formed,” Wang said.

The goal of the event was to provide a space for Asian students to celebrate the holiday away from home. The event was also a way to educate the public, particularly those who had not previously experienced a Lunar New Year celebration or the customs that come along with the holiday, Wang said.

“The main purpose is purely to celebrate, and also to raise awareness for the different cultures that celebrate this event and be able to highlight how important how important this event is to us,” Wang said.

According to Wang, each year is associated with one of the 12 zodiac animals, which refers back to the story of “the Great Race,” an ancient tale about the animals and their characters. This year is the year of the dog.

Another traditional story, centered primarily around Chinese customs, is the story of Nian. Wang explained, that Nian means “year” in Mandarin and was the name of an ancient Chinese monster. It was fabled that loud noises from pots and pans and firecrackers as well as light from red lanterns would scare the monster away. As a way to honor this tradition, the Lunar New Year event had stations set up for people to create paper lanterns using red envelopes.

Along with the paper lantern stations, the event had calligraphy stations and pamphlets to educate attendees about different traditions celebrated throughout different Asian countries.

Celebrations of Chinese New Year

In addition to MCC, other cultural groups on campus celebrated the Lunar New Year with their own customs. The Chinese Christian Fellowship (CCF), a club founded with the goal of helping Chinese international students adapt to Cal Poly, hosted their annual Dumpling Night in celebration of the Chinese New Year Feb. 10.

The fellowship hosts weekly potlucks and bible study groups open to all students interested in learning about Chinese culture or Christianity. CCF Women’s Bible study leader and child development junior Amanda Louie explained that Dumpling Night is one of the club’s largest outreach events.

At Dumpling Night, attendees assist in hand making traditional Chinese dumplings with their peers.

“I saw dumpling night as a way to get together with people that are interested in the same thing as me and get great food,” general engineering sophomore Brian Ho said.

The dumpling, according to Chinese lore, is representative of the ingot, the ancient Chinese currency. According to Wang and Louie, it is believed that the more dumplings you eat during the New Year festivities, the more wealth you will acquire in the upcoming year.

For students interested in another opportunity to celebrate the Lunar New Year, CSA will be hosting their 61st annual Chinese New Year Banquet March 3 in Chumash Auditorium.

Tickets cost $12 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. The banquet will have food catered from Golden China and performances from the CSA Lion Dancing team, hip-hop group “Take Out Kids” and acapella group “Variations.” The event will also highlight a traditional play about the zodiac dog performed by CSA members.

“This is a great opportunity for [people] to step out of their comfort zone and experience something really different for a night,” CSA President and business administration senior Jason Lu said.

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