Celebrating the end of the Year of the Monkey and welcoming the Year of the Rooster, fellows from the Cornell Institute of Public Affairs painted lanterns and ate authentic Chinese food at a Chinese lantern festival on Thursday night.
Gloria Cao grad, organizer of the event, was confused that no other organization had yet organized a Lantern Festival – traditionally held on the 15th day of the Chinese New Year, which began on Jan. 28 – so she decided to organize a celebration to educate other Cornellians.
“This is one opportunity to let people know about this festival, because, for me, this is very meaningful,” Cao said. “We eat sweet rice balls and make lanterns to fly in the sky, place in the water or just place it in our home.”
The lanterns, Cao said, symbolize hope, light and family. She said family was an important factor motivating the organization of the event.
“Seventy percent of CIPA fellows come from other countries,” said Jonathon Cummings grad. “We wanted to do this for them.”
Cao and Cummings also said they wanted to increase cultural awareness among Cornell students and tear down negative stereotypes of Chinese students.
“Usually, people think Chinese people are a little conservative, very shy and don’t express their feelings,” Cao said. “But, actually, people celebrate through festivals. We express our blessings of family, our feelings of friendship — for [a] lover, for anyone.”
“We want to celebrate cultural diversity,” Cummings added. “Every culture has different practices with different meanings. We want to share this with everybody.”
Chinese students participating in the Festival enjoyed themselves as they celebrated with their Cornell family.
“It makes you feel like you’re home,” said Hongdi Zhao, a first-year graduate student in the Institute for Public Affairs.
“I really enjoy painting the lanterns,” Zhao said as others jostled for paint and markers and began to decorate lanterns. “Some of my colleagues come to me with their English names and I help them write their Chinese name on the lantern.”