An evening full of traditional Chinese dishes, performances and good company brought together students and Athens residents alike Jan. 27 to celebrate the Lunar New Year in Baker Ballroom on Sunday night.

Chinese New Year is China’s most important festival and holiday season. Chinese New Year 2019 will be celebrated Feb. 5, beginning a year of the pig. Traditional Chinese New Year activities include putting up decorations, eating reunion dinner with family on New Year's Eve, firecrackers and fireworks, and giving red envelopes to children.

Ohio University’s Chinese New Year celebration succeeded in incorporating the important aspects of the holiday in its gala this year. 

The Chinese Learners Association, Chinese Culture Exchange Association and the Chinese Language Association hosted this year’s celebration. Yue Dong, a graduate student studying instructional technology, helped organize the various activities and performances offered.

“We had many activities and programs performed by both Chinese professors and Chinese students at OU, as well as Chinese scholars from other universities such as Ohio State University and the University of Michigan,” Dong said. “There were also about 10 different authentic Chinese dishes served, including Chinese dumplings.”

The celebration brought together many friends who would traditionally celebrate it with their families, but being at college makes the Chinese New Year celebration more like a big party with friends, Dong said.

In China, a typical celebration of the new year would start a couple days before New Year’s Eve.

“It starts with preparation such as buying new clothes for the entire family, cleaning up and maybe getting a new haircut,” Dong said. “A traditional New Year's Eve dinner should have around eight to 12 dishes. Since my hometown is a coastal city in China, we normally have a lot of seafood then.”

Dong said the celebration of Chinese New Year in China could last one to two weeks because many are visiting friends and relatives all over to celebrate with.

“During this time, people visit friends, play mahjong, eat dumplings, watch firework shows and give red packets that are filled with money to children,” Dong said. 

Chinese New Year changes every year because it follows the lunar calendar, which is based on the movement of the moon. It’s a time Dong believes many use to honor and reflect on their cultural traditions. 

Raquel Wu, a junior studying psychology, also helped in preparing for the Chinese New Year Gala, a night she believed to be a huge success.

“We had wanted to try things differently this year with decorations and the placing of the stage,” Wu said. “We wanted food to relate to Chinese culture and from different parts of China, which I think we were able to pull off. We were pretty proud of the turnout this year.”

Being able to celebrate Chinese New Year at OU is something Wu is grateful for, especially because she doesn’t always get to celebrate traditional Chinese holidays.

“I am an Asian-American, so the opportunities for these sort of big celebrations are slim,” Wu said. “When I was still in San Francisco, the Chinese Asian community was huge enough for the mayor to allow children to miss a few days from school and celebrate their culture.”

Although Chinese New Year celebrations at OU gives Chinese and Chinese-American students and residents the chance to celebrate the important holiday away from family, there are still differences from celebrations in China.

“It’s a very important time for family, unlike western culture where Christmas is a more important family holiday than New Year’s,” Wu said. “An actual celebration is more interactive and lively whereas here, it’s mainly to entertain.”

Suzy Zhang, a sophomore studying health services administration, served many of the authentic dishes to attendees of the Chinese New Year Gala. Zhang only saw a handful of performances but had no doubt that all the performances were phenomenal.

“I think all the performances were awesome, especially the performances from other schools. They did hip-hop dances and street dances and also performed a traditional Chinese dance, which was pretty good,” Zhang said. “I didn’t watch all the performances, but I’m sure they were all great.”

Since moving to the U.S., Zhang has not gotten to spend Chinese New Year with her family, but she’s lucky to have her fellow Chinese friends at OU to celebrate with.

“At OU, since we don’t have family here, we celebrate with a bunch of Chinese students,” Zhang said. “We just have a get together or a dinner and celebrate. It’s like a regular time to hang out with my friends but better.”