By Evelyn Ortega
Although the new year was already welcomed in January, Valencia students were taught to celebrate it again last Thursday. But this time with some Chinese flair. The Year of the Rabbit was welcomed at our West Campus.
Patio tables were decorated with red Chinese symbols meaning love, peace, and wisdom. Sheng Yi Lui, a member of Valencia Intercultural Students Association (VISA), organized West Campus’ first Chinese New Year Celebration.
“I’m Asian, so I wanted to do this, but my advisers and everyone helped put it together,” Lui explained on the planning and creation of the festival. “East Campus celebrates it every year, so I thought about bringing it to this campus.”
The celebration began at 11 a.m. and ran through 2 p.m. Students were welcomed with music, food, and performances, all of which demonstrated the Chinese culture and more importantly was free. “Free stuff! I like free stuff.” Zachary Benson exalted while joining the celebration. All VISA required from students was their name, VID number, and email address in order to participate in the activities planned for the afternoon.
Students were taught to say “Xin Nian Kuai Le” meaning Happy New Year and “Gong Hey Fa Choy” which means “May the New Year bring you happiness and prosperity.” Ti jian Zi, a Chinese game that resembles a game we know as Hackie sack, but instead of a small ball the game piece is a small stone with feathers on top, was attempted by students.
Most students stood in line in order to have their name translated to Chinese. Grace Ren, a native Chinese and member of VISA, taught students not only how to say but also how to write their name. “So how do you pronounce your name?” Ren asked every student.
“That’s perfect!” Ren congratulated everyone who attempted or succeeded with rewriting their Chinese names. They were given a fortune cookie and a red hand fan for good luck. “Thats exciting! I actually learned what my name means, it means luxury!” said Shalon Peoples.
At noon, students were offered a taste of authentic Chinese food. A table was set up displaying a variety of foods including turnip cake, dumpling, mandarin oranges, pork bread, and water, dishes that are a part of the Chinese New Year feast. “The food was interesting. My favorite was the sweet bread with the pork inside.” Ariel Gonzalez commented on the food, with which I agree.
It being a Chinese affair, chopsticks made out of bamboo were offered aside from the usual fork. “I wanted to learn how to use chopsticks.” Yassir Baroudi requested to Lui, who went on to explain exactly how to use the traditional Chinese utensil.
At 1 p.m., The Hung Fut Hung Man Fei Martial Arts and Lion Dance Association gave performances of the Lion Dance, Traditional Kung Fu, and Tai chi. The Lion Dance is performed every year, it is an essential part of the festival. “The Lion Dance originated in the farmer’s villages.”
Sifu Charles River, the association’s founder and chief instructor explained. “It is said that the village was attacked by a lion beast every year. In order to save their livestock and themselves, they created a costume just like the lion to scare it away. This form of Traditional Chinese Kung Fu has been around for 400 years,” River explained to the audience. Members of the association went on to show different levels of Tai Chi and Kung Fu.
River’s association has performed in Valencia’s East campus before for the Chinese New Year celebration. He believes events like these are a great way to educate and show everyone different cultures and traditions. “Traditional Martial Arts is more than just fighting, it’s mind, health, and spirit.”
Traditions like these offer students a glimpse of a different country, it’s people and it’s culture. These events can be seen and understood by everyone. “It doesn’t matter your race. It shows honor and respect,” River states. Valencia students, as diverse as they are, discovered their Chinese names, took a taste of China, took a shot at a traditional game played by children all throughout China and welcomed the year of the rabbit!