This Chinese Learner Association breaks out its massive dragon again this year to celebrate the New Year.
To celebrate the turn of the Chinese calendar, the Chinese Learner Association is having its 15th annual Spring Gala on Sunday.
The Chinese New Year, translated as “Spring Festival,” kicks off Thursday as the organization continues to host the event for students and bring an ancient Chinese tradition to Athens.
“This festival is celebrated by almost a quarter of people on this planet, so everyone should know it,” said Jim Zhu, a professor in electrical engineering and computer science and adviser for the Chinese Learner Association. “It’s a fun festival and Chinese usually celebrate it with family.”
Zhu said there are about 1,000 Chinese students on campus, so the ability to put on this celebration is important because they cannot go home.
“The students happen to be in the middle of the semester, so they cannot have a break and they cannot go home,” Zhu said. “So, it’s nice to celebrate it here and at least make them feel at home. And then, the local people, and students … can also see a piece of authentic Chinese culture.”
Yichao Li, a doctoral student studying computer science and president of the Chinese Learner Association, said the organization likes to keep the acts at the event traditional, but that is sometimes not possible.
“Last year, we opened with traditional instruments, but those people left OU,”
Li said. “Pipa is a very traditional Chinese instrument, but we cannot find a performer this year.”
Performances this year include a chorus of Chinese faculty members, traditional dances and an eight-person dragon act, Li said.
“The theme is traditional. Even when we have American students in the Chinese Language program, they are going to sing songs in Chinese and perform Chinese dance and Chinese kung fu,” Zhu said. “They are going to mix it with Western and modern dance, as well. They are going to mix tai chi with street dance.”
This year, the event will be held solely in Baker Ballroom, as opposed to previous years when the performances were in the Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium, and the guests had to walk over to the Baker Ballroom for dinner.
“So here with the whole thing in the ballroom, it will be much more cozy and we’ll put tea and candy on the tables,” Zhu said. “People can chat and relax.”
The Chinese Learner Association has been rehearsing for the past two weeks with a large involvement of members and volunteers for the large production.
“The true purpose is to hear laughter and make friends,” Zhu said. “It’s a traditional program here, so people expect it.”