Chinese dragons, traditional Chinese songs and dances, a raffle, and delicious Chinese food were just a few of the things that the Chinese New Years Festival held Wednesday, Feb. 21 in the SUB had to offer. The event was joint-coordinated by the Chinese Student and Scholar Association, the International Students Union, the Asian and Pacific Islander Student Alliance and JamAsia.
The festival kicked off with a pair of students dressed as traditional Chinese dragons parading around the perimeter of the room, and then eventually crossing each other on stage while beautiful string music was played in the background.
From that point on, there were a series of performances by students and professors alike, most of them being songs or dances. Guests were greeted with a ticket which could potentially win them a prize in the raffle, and were invited to grab some food, have a seat and enjoy the show.
While Chinese New Year is a distinctly Chinese holiday, there are thousands of years of evolving traditions that have culminated into the celebration we know today, the festival welcomed students from all backgrounds to come and experience the culture.
“I want American people to come,” said Vincent Shan, the president of CSSA. “To introduce the culture, that’s the goal.”
Faculty such as Professor Sarah Elia helped to reach that goal by performing the song, “The Moon Represents My Heart,” per the request of some of her Chinese students that she teaches English to in the Haggerty English Language Program.
“I learned it off of YouTube” she said. She hopes her performance would encourage other non-Chinese people to perform at the festival in years to come.
The students who organized the festival were equally as open to incorporating American culture as they were with sharing Chinese culture with fellow American students. A student-led band called The Cats played a few jazzy songs, and even provided some background instrumentation for Shan’s vocals on two or three of them. Music playing over the speakers between performances and during raffle callings were also a blend of popular American and Chinese songs, showcasing some of the cultural coexistence that New Paltz is proud to offer.
While the festival is welcoming to non-Chinese students, it also serves to keep the traditions of the holiday alive for the many Chinese-born students studying abroad at New Paltz.
“It’s the most important day of the year,” Shan said. “Usually I would celebrate it at home with my family, but while I’m at school to study we have this to celebrate.”
Perhaps one of the most unique performances during the festival involved the zither, a harp-like traditional string instrument that produces beautiful arpeggios when strummed. The sound silenced everybody in the room, as people tuned in to the unique melodies produced by the instrument.
As for the people who just came for the food? Well, Shan expected that to happen.
“Most people come here for the food,” Shan said. “They don’t know the meaning of Chinese New Year to Chinese people. This is our culture, this is what we want to show you guys. We want to show what real Chinese culture is.”