This year’s Lunar New Year Celebration was held on Jan. 24 in Daugherty-Palmer Commons. The Lunar New Year Celebration is an event held in collaboration with the Asian Studies program, the Department of International Language and Cultures and the Asian Pacific American Club (APAC). The Lunar New Year was relatively early this year, so the event fell on the first Friday of classes.
The main event of the Celebration was a station for guests to make dumplings which were cooked in the back and then put out later to eat. The room was covered with red decorations, with red symbolizing good fortune and happiness. Snacks were provided for people to enjoy while waiting for the dumplings they made to cook. The Celebration also featured a calligraphy station, a chopstick competition and karaoke to finish off the night.
Professor of Chinese, Jingqi Fu started the Lunar New Year Celebration at SMCM a few years after she came to the college in 1995, saying “we never stopped, so every year we have this New Year Celebration with dumplings.” The event was well attended from the beginning but “not to the level it is now,” Professor Fu added.
It started as a smaller event on campus and has turned into the larger celebration it is today, but Professor Fu said dumplings have been a constant throughout the years. She added that she is “very happy to see people who are not necessarily involved in the Chinese or Asian studies program” attending. Professor Fu says they always try to open the event to more people, including community members living nearby who come help her with the cooking.
Professor of History, Charles Musgrove, teaches Chinese history at SMCM and currently serves as the faculty advisor for APAC. Professor Musgrove calls the event “one of the best traditions we have at this school.” Professor Musgrove stated the turnout this year was “great and every year we always manage to have enough dumplings for everyone who stays so for me that’s the sign of a successful event.”
Both Professor Fu and Professor Musgrove credit APAC for much of the organizing of the event in recent years, by running activities, announcements, entertainment as well as advertising for the event.
Senior Mariel Santos is the co-president of the APAC at SMCM, alongside Jay Guo. Santos joined APAC her sophomore year and immediately felt welcomed. As the big event for APAC each year, Santos says she “appreciates how many people come and it does show a good amount of diversity on our campus […] that’s why we look forward to it every year, it’s cool to see people who are interested in what we do.”
The Lunar New Year is the “most important holiday in much of East Asia,” Professor Musgrove said. Professor Fu described the Lunar New Year saying, “the whole country stops and nothing is going on except going home to family members and celebrating and eating,” and in times when food was scarce “you would keep the best food for these couple days.”
Countries celebrate the Lunar New Year differently with different food and rituals and Professor Fu says that making dumplings is a huge tradition in northern China, describing it as “a must.” Professor Musgrove says the wrapping of dumplings during the Lunar New Year is a family affair and the dumplings “are supposed to bring good fortune for the year.” By making the dumplings at the event, Professor Musgrove says it “replicates that family tradition here on campus.”
Senior Nhu Chau described the Lunar New Year as “like Christmas and Thanksgiving in America, but special in its own way because it’s the time your family comes together and gathers.” Chau was born in Vietnam and said she missed seeing her family during the Lunar New Year, stating, “when I went to the event it brought back the memories and I remember now why people celebrate the Lunar New Year, it’s the gathering, the fun, the laughter and just enjoying food and hanging out with your friends.”
Coordinator of Diversity and Civic Engagement, Annesha Edwards-Carter, also attended the event and talked of the importance of diverse programs on campus. Edwards-Carter said people want to feel accepted at SMCM, making it “so important that the St. Mary’s Community makes this a place that is inclusive.” Edwards-Carter was also impressed that the event retained so many students, who were engaged with the activities provided, not just the free food.
With another successful Lunar New Year Celebration under her belt, Professor Fu added that they plan to “keep it going for many years to come.”