January 27, 2009

Campus Celebrations Ring in Year of the Ox

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Some Chinese students at Cornell are just a four-hour car ride from their houses in New York City. Others are a 14-hour flight from their families in China. No matter the distance between Ithaca and their homes, all tried to find alternative and communal ways to celebrate the Chinese New Year and the start of the Year of the Ox. [img_assist|nid=34440|title=Festive feasting|desc=Students crowded into Okenshield’s yesterday for the annual Chinese New Year dinner, where they ate traditional Chinese dishes in honor of the incoming Year of the Ox. Some had to wait up to 40 minutes before they could enter.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
In traditional Chinese culture, the New Year is celebrated with festive family dinners, red envelopes stuffed with cash and a Lion Dance to scare away the evil spirits, according to Gloria Kwan ’09, president of the Chinese Student Association. On campus, many students attended the Lunar New Year Festival on Saturday night in Duffield and the annual Chinese New Year dinner at Okenshield’s yesterday.
Saturday’s event was sponsored and planned by the CSA, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, the Hong Kong Students Association and the Mainland China Students Association. The lines on Saturday extended out the doors as students, both Chinese and those who are not of Chinese descent, waited to eat the authentic Chinese dishes homemade by the various student groups. Tables were filled with plates of meatball soup, pork chops with bok choy, dumplings, almond tofu and tea eggs. Students played traditional games like Chinese poker in addition to new, innovative games like Buddha coin toss. Additionally, Wushu, a student group dedicated to the teaching of the sport modeled after traditional Chinese martial arts, performed along with Illumination, Cornell’s undergraduate traditional Chinese dance troupe, which performed a traditional Chinese fan dance.
“It was a really great event. I’m glad that we all combined together to do this and to help the community learn more about Chinese New Year,” Kwan said. “And since everyone is away from home, I’m glad that we gave them a way to celebrate it.”
Others felt differently. Referring to Saturday’s festival, Shaomei Wu grad said, “For us it was kind of boring because we have seen shows like that so many times in China … I called home and they were all having a huge family party together. I feel far away from home.”
At Okenshield’s last night, students waited in the long lines to take part in the festivities and enjoy the traditional Chinese foods. Tables were decorated with fans, oranges, Chinese sucking candies and confetti.
Cornell Dining planned this event without any student involvement.
“We do this every year. It’s a lot of fun,” said Jill Shufelt, assistant manager of Cornell Dining. “We do dinner every night and this is a great change.” Shufelt added that before the event, Cornell Dining was expecting 1,100 students to swipe in.
All over campus, Chinese students celebrated the New Year by attending campus events, wearing red or just wishing others a “Happy New Year.”
Several students noted that the Chinese New Year was an opportunity to celebrate and spend time with close friends.
“Last night, my friends and I cooked dinner together. It’s great just eating and celebrating together,” Kwan said.