Group shares Chinese New Year festivities, traditions with campus

The Chinese New Year goes by the lunar calendar and started Jan. 29 this year.

Lily Langerud

Half an hour before kickoff, Albert Leung arranged tangerines and lucky candies instead of potato chips and cocktail weenies ” without a television in sight.

“I think nobody else is in pain more than me,” he said. “I would love to sit with my friends and watch the Super Bowl, but this is important.”

About 350 people celebrated the seventh day of the Chinese New Year on Sunday at Coffman Union ” which happened to be the same day as Super Bowl XL.

“When we booked the date, we weren’t really thinking that far ahead in the NFL season,” said Leung, president of the Chinese American Student Association.

The 60-member group organizes the event every year, providing free food and entertainment to students and the public.

The Chinese New Year, which varies every year in relation to the Western calendar, depending on the lunar calendar, started Jan. 29. Leung said it involves a two-week celebration, with many people going home for traditional dinners with their families at the start of it.

“It’s important because it’s somewhat of a unique time to be thinking about celebrating the New Year,” Leung said. “Most people would assume the New Year starts every Jan. 1. With ours, it has to follow with the lunar calendar.”

Mary Kwan, vice president of the group, said the event aims to bring people together and give those who don’t get a chance to go home for the New Year an opportunity to celebrate.

“A huge part of Chinese New Year is getting your family together and having a nice dinner, and we’re trying to do that on a bigger scale,” she said.

John Wang, a junior electrical engineering major, wore a dog costume in honor of the event, with this being the year of the dog, according to the Chinese zodiac.

Wang, who was born in China, said he appreciates the event because his family doesn’t live close enough for him to visit.

Members of the organization emphasized that the celebration wasn’t just for Chinese Americans.

“A lot of people think you have to be Chinese to be part of the group,” said sophomore microbiology student Jane Wong. “But, we try to make everyone as welcome as we can.”

Richard Moss, who attended the Chinese New Year at Coffman Union, said he didn’t know much about the Chinese New Year, but he saw a newspaper advertisement for the event.

“I know it means free food,” he said.

Sarah Minette said she came because of her interest in martial arts and Chinese culture.

Christine Liu, a sophomore finance and marketing student and public relations chairwoman for the group, said the event helped promote cultural awareness.

“I believe it’s really important to get in touch with my roots and relate to people from the same background,” she said.

“CASA is dedicated to promoting diversity and this is not an issue for just college kids, it’s an issue for the whole world.”

The event incorporated traditional customs like giving out red envelopes and tangerines for good luck and prosperity. Musical performances ranged from a rendition of a Dashboard Confessional tune to traditional Chinese songs.

Chris Oudavanh, a sophomore finance and marketing student and Chinese American Student Assocation member, said the performances were meant to show the evolution of traditional Chinese music as well as the Chinese American aspect in the modern piece.

Oudavanh said he expected a good turnout, even with the football game going on.

“I know it’s Super Bowl Sunday, but I want to represent my culture,” he said.

Stephanie Lau, a first-year student, said she joined the group to meet people and get involved.

“It was interesting meeting other Chinese people,” she said. “I didn’t really know any in high school.”

Julie Ha Truong, a graduate student in public policy, performed dances with her sisters Amy and Yan Huss, members of the Chinese American Association of Minnesota Chinese Dance Theater.

Julie said the three have performed since they were young and are very busy

during the Chinese New Year. She said she co-founded Chinese American Student Association five years ago because she saw a need on campus for the group.

“It really is to promote Chinese culture,” she said. “It’s not just for Chinese people.”