Last Sunday, as most of America was enjoying the annual juggernaut of sports culture of the Super Bowl, China was celebrating its most important national holiday—Spring Festival. Held by the Claremont Chinese Students Association (CSA), the Chinese New Year celebration at the Claremont McKenna College Auditorium brought together students across from the 5Cs. Student performances, interactive games, and authentic Chinese food kicked off the Year of the Monkey with a joyful spirit.
Chinese Spring Festival, also called Lunar New Year, is the most important festival in Chinese culture. Though forms of celebration vary from place to place, many traditions have remained consistent among observers. Families often gather on the eve of the new year, enjoy a big meal together (dumplings are a must), and stay up until midnight to celebrate the new start with fireworks.
Like Chinese Central Television, which broadcasts a sensational program every year for Spring Festival, CSA prepared an entertaining performance. Red lanterns, kung fu, and classical Chinese music brought traditional Chinese elements to the auditorium, while modern cultural presentations including pop songs, street dance, and a student-directed movie also won over the audience.
“I am very impressed by the amount of talent that the students here have brought to the festival,” Minh-Quan Do PO ’19 said.
During Christmas and the Western New Year, students have a break from school to join their families in celebration. Chinese international students, however, are usually unable to spend Spring Festival with their families. For students who spent their first Lunar New Year abroad in 2016, CSA's Spring Festival celebration offered a taste of home.
“It's pretty different because I have always celebrated the Spring Festival with my family and had our special family traditions, but this year I celebrated it with my friends, which is also pretty nice,” Christine Teng PO’ 19 said after the show. “We got to know each other's family traditions and had Chinese food.”
Not being with family on such a big occasion isn't the only difficulty international students face. The college workload, new friends, and new environment all make it challenging to stay connected with family and the life they left behind. CSA’s Spring Festival celebrations have become a tradition that allows Chinese international students to feel at home in a foreign country, as family reunion (团圆) is an important concept in Chinese culture. “It's more like a gathering activity for Chinese people; it is very important for Chinese people to get together during celebrations,” said Shutian Xu CM '18, the director of the event.
Chinese Spring Festival is important not only to international students, but also to other students. Sara Gong PO’ 18, who was born and raised in California, presented the only Chinese kung fu performance in the show. When asked about her thoughts on the celebration, she said, “My family always has small Spring Festival celebrations, and sometimes we get together with other families and eat dumplings. Here, the celebration is actually bigger than I have at home, which is really nice.”
Toward the end of the night, CSA surprised the crowd with a collection of short videos featuring Chinese students’ parents sending wishes and blessings from home. “It is a very good reminder that there is still our family back there, because when you start your life here, it is easy to forget who you really are,” Jerry Xuan PO ’19 said in reaction to the unexpected message.