Feasting and FireworksGAMBIER, Ohio (February 6, 2006) Chinese New Year--actually a celebration of the coming of spring--traditionally emphasizes feasting, family reunions, and fireworks. For Ping Lai, Class of 2008, who is the student chair of the Chinese Club at Kenyon, "It's one of the few times that the whole family (it used to be the whole village) gather and enjoy each other." It's also a way for Ping, who moved to the United States ten years ago, to reconnect to his culture. He compares the holiday's significance to that of Christmas in America.
The Chinese Club and the Kenyon Chinese Program will sponsor a daylong community celebration of Chinese New Year on Saturday, February 11. Increased enrollment in Chinese language courses have inspired and enabled the club to put together an expansive program of events, with calligraphy, music, martial arts, skits, and, of course, plenty of traditional food. The organizers aim to engage outside students and increase their awareness of Chinese culture--essentially, to extend their community.
The day will begin with a small-scale "cultural performance" from 11:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Chinese language students will translate names, cook dumplings, offer a preview of the evening's fashion show and martial arts exhibit, and share general information about China.
The main event will be at 7:00 p.m. at Bolton Theater, featuring a Chinese fashion show, instrumental performances by students, a martial arts demonstration, a performance by the Kenyon College dance team, a calligraphy demonstration, readings of Chinese poetry, a food-making demonstration, and short skits in English.
Students and faculty will take the stage and perform a selection of folk and contemporary songs. Hunan Garden, a restaurant in Mt. Vernon, will provide the obligatory feast at a reception following the performance.
According to Jie Zhang, visiting assistant professor of Chinese, spring brings rebirth, prosperity, and fortune. Customs and superstitions balance hope and fear: the fireworks, an explosively festive element, and the extensive use of the color red are intended to frighten away the "nian," a man-eating beast.
Organizers had hoped to hold these events on January 29, the official beginning of the Year of the Dog, but it interfered with other campus events. Luckily, people in the Chinese community continue to wish each other a "xinnian hao" up to a month after the event, so the compromise is culturally appropriate.
--by Lauren C. Ostberg, Class of 2007