By Jessica Ganga
Nation & World Editor
It was a night filled with good food and good luck as students and faculty at the College celebrated the Year of the Sheep during the Chinese New Year celebration in the Brower Student Center on Tuesday, Feb. 24.
Located in the Lions Den, the area was decorated in red, the color of good luck in Chinese culture, with hanging lanterns that added to the celebratory atmosphere.
The event was a chance for Chinese students and friends alike to celebrate the holiday together.
“I don’t get to be home for Chinese New Year,” said Melody Hwang, a sophomore urban education and English major and co-vice president of the Chinese Student Association. “(It’s) really cool to celebrate it with my TCNJ family.”
The event, which was hosted by the CSA, featured various performances from students. Lion dancers, dressed in traditional pieces, opened the event. As a drum pounded, the dancers swayed back and forth to its beat. Their performance moved down to the audience, weaving around the tables of people, where students were encouraged to touch the lion’s head for good luck.
During the performance, attending families gave out red envelopes to their children in a Chinese New Year tradition. In China, elder family members give the envelopes filled with money to their children, a way sending good wishes and luck to them.
Zachary Lo, a sophomore biology major and co-vice president of CSA, then introduced the Rutgers CSA Chinese Dance Troupe. Two female students performed with fans to a Chinese version of “Colors of the Wind.”
The dancers matched their elegant movements to the classic song as they glided fans and sashes through the air.
The audience was also entertained by the College’s Chinese yo-yo team. The young men performed various tricks, and at one point, effortlessly spun their yo-yo’s with one hand while the other was behind their backs.
Later in the evening, people were invited to fill up their plates with authentic Chinese food. Delicious spring rolls, bok choy and dumplings were served among other appetizing options.
Next to the food, people were encouraged to make Chinese paper lanterns and learn how to create different images by cutting paper.
One adjacent table held a small tree adorned with paper wishes from students for the new year. Many of the wishes included “happiness” and “good health,” while others contained fun wishes. One which said, “to eat all the food in the world and never get fat.”
Later in the evening, Chinese language professor Celia Liu had some of her students model traditional Chinese outfits in a fashion show for the audience. Students walked out in the colorful costumes from each dynasty.
The highlight of the night was not just the performances and food, but rather the gathering of students from all different cultural backgrounds coming together, something Liu was very happy with.
“Seeing students from different ethnic backgrounds taking parts in showing the Chinese cultural practices (and) the program is a sign of TCNJ students’ acceptance of culture diversity,” Liu said. “The cultural experience on campus stimulates global exchange activities. Culture exchange is a phenomenon that can be seen everywhere from our community to the world.”
Assistant Professor of Communications Yifeng Hu also enjoyed the evening and believed it was “eye-opening” for students to see how another culture celebrates a holiday.
“It’s a great opportunity to introduce the culture to American students.” Hu said.
Also in attendance was Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences Benjamin Rifkin and Center for Global Engagement Director Jon Stauff.
“The Chinese New Year celebration has evolved into a wonderful tradition at TCNJ, with students and faculty working together to introduce Chinese culture to the community, practice Chinese language skills and encourage people to learn more about China,” Stauff said.
Both Rifkin and Stauff enjoyed the event and felt it was a great way to bring the College community together. Rifkin, especially, liked the wishing tree.
“In addition to providing all members of our community a chance to experience a taste (both literally and figuratively) of a culture representing approximately 25 percent of the world’s population, the celebration of Chinese New Year is another of many opportunities for our campus community to take a moment to mindfully enjoy the present and, with a wishing tree, articulate hopes for the future,” Rifkin said.