Festival celebrates Chinese New Year and culture
Emilie Kefalas | Sunday, February 16, 2014
On Sunday, the College’s China Night celebrated the sights, sounds and senses of the Chinese New Year.
College provost and senior vice president Patricia Fleming said the free event, hosted by the Chinese Cultural Club in O’Laughlin Auditorium, featured 15 acts open to the public. The club served Chinese cuisine in the dining hall after the performances.
Alice Siqin Yang, advisor for the Chinese Cultural Club, said this year’s event featured folk dances, music using traditional Chinese instruments, songs, theater and games meant to incorporate the audience into the festivities.
The Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, began Jan. 31, Yang said. She said as a native Chinese person, it is one of the most important festivals she celebrates.
“It is the time for family reunion, like Thanksgiving and Christmas in the United States. People away from home would try their best to go home for the holiday and for reunion,” Yang said. “It is hard for most Chinese overseas to do that. It is nice that we can celebrate the festival here, together at Saint Mary’s.
“It is like a family reunion for Chinese international students and many others.”
Yang said the event was a cultural learning experience for Saint Mary’s students and the South Bend community.
“China Night is a show that celebrates Chinese New Year and diversity on Saint Mary’s campus,” Yang said. “It offers a platform for international cultural exchange and an opportunity for Saint Mary’s students, faculty and staff and local community people to interact and learn more about Chinese language and culture.
“It is very important for all of us to learn multiple languages and diverse cultures in today’s interdependent world.”
First-year student Yaqi Song, co-president of the Chinese Cultural Club, said Saint Mary’s first hosted China Night in 1967 and again in 1969 in celebration of Chinese New Year. She said the festival has been rebooted since the creation of the Chinese Cultural Club in 2008.
The club and its 20 registered members held a dumpling party on Chinese New Year’s Eve of 2013 and 2014, Song said. She said the club also has coordinated with the dining hall to serve a Chinese-themed dinner near the Chinese New Year.
Song said she receives support from the Chinese Friendship Association at Notre Dame, Notre Dame students and Holy Cross students.
“I’m honored to be one of the co-presidents of Chinese Cultural Club because I think Chinese culture is just like any other stunning culture in the rest of this world,” she said. “They are all so beautiful.
Children and Saint Mary’s students who attended the event received red envelopes as a traditional Chinese New Year’s gift, Yang said. In China, celebration of the New Year often includes the use of firecrackers at midnight and the exchange of red envelopes with monetary gifts from relatives.
“The red color of the envelope symbolizes good luck and is supposed to ward off evil spirits,” Yang said.
Yang has been the show’s advisor since 2008 and teaches Mandarin Chinese at the college. She also coordinates the Asian and African study-abroad programs, including the China Summer Program and the China Semester Program in Shanghai and Nanjing. Yang said she has taken Saint Mary’s students to China three times in the past few years.
Yang encouraged students to study abroad in China during her presentation at China Night.
“It is becoming more and more important to learn the Chinese language and culture in the interdependent global society that we live in today,” Yang said. “Saint Mary’s strives to bring together women of different nations, cultures and races so that students can have a richer educational experience.
“As part of the Sophia Program, the College’s new general education program, Saint Mary’s encourages students to understand the aspects of culturally diverse environments in order to communicate more effectively across cultures.”