Students gather at U to celebrate Chinese New Year

Performances incorporated different forms of Chinese culture.

Kathryn Nelson

Gathered around tables, festival guests learned techniques to making traditional Chinese dumplings.

Yating Wang pinched the corners of a dumpling shell with a group of friends while jumping between English and Chinese conversation.

The St. Paul Student Center bustled with activity as both young and old gathered to celebrate the 2007 Chinese New Year on Friday.

The New Year, also called the Spring Festival, began Sunday and is celebrated for 15 days. Each year a new zodiac animal, selected through a lunisolar calendar, represents the new year.

The event marked the beginning of the year of the pig.

Yating Wang, who came to the University last fall from China to study human resources, said the festival is important to her culture because it symbolizes the first season of the new year, in which the country can plan and celebrate the future.

Although she said the University’s festival was similar to those in China, Yating Wang said she would usually spend the evening with her family watching the Chinese New Year show on television, which usually lasts about four hours.

Yating Wang said she still enjoyed the University’s event, even though it didn’t have a traditional fireworks show.

“It’s great fun to celebrate with different people in different countries,” she said.

In the basement of the student center, people gathered in front of the theater entrance for the New Year performance, which featured both traditional and modern forms of Chinese culture.

Asian languages and literature sophomore Lisa Jeremiason and friend Kelsey Buckley waited in line.

Jeremiason said she attended the celebration to support her language partner, graduate student Drew Wang, who performed a dance routine that evening.

Both Jeremiason and Drew Wang participate in the TandemPlus program, which pairs two students who speak different languages to enhance cross-cultural understanding while helping one another learn a foreign language.

Jeremiason, who will study in Beijing this summer, said the partnership helped both her and Drew Wang understand different cultures.

As Jeremiason and Buckley took their seats in the theater, Drew Wang excitedly ran to them.

“I’ll be on sixth!” she said.

Friendship Association of Chinese Students and Scholars, who sponsored the event, and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart opened the event.

Then the lights dimmed, and the show began.

The beating of a drum and symbols ushered in the traditional dragon dance, which came alive with the help of two dancers underneath the costume.

Drew Wang, along with a handful of friends, performed a choreographed dance to the music of a Chinese pop song, drawing whistles and cheers from the audience.

Drew Wang said she didn’t really celebrate the festival at home, but being abroad helped her appreciate her heritage.

“Chinese culture is something I can really be proud of,” she said.

Even though Drew Wang started learning English at a young age, she said her partnership with Jeremiason was a big help in becoming accustomed to life in America.

Soon Jeremiason, who has never been out of the country, will exchange in Drew Wang’s culture, spending eight weeks immersed in both Chinese language and customs.

But through the TandemPlus program and the events sponsored by University student groups, both have become more comfortable with foreign ways of life.