Bellevue College’s Chinese Student Association hosted their first Lunar New Year celebration on Feb. 5 from 5 – 8 p.m. to celebrate the beginning of the year of the monkey on the lunar calendar. The actual holiday was on Monday, Feb. 8. International Talk Time, the Office of International Education and Global Initiatives, the Taiwanese Student Association, the Indonesian Fellowship and Student Programs helped organize this event.
The lunar calendar was used in ancient China and follows the lunar cycle. Lunar New Year occurs on the first day of that calendar. “It’s basically our traditional calendar. We still use it, but don’t use it under national law,” said Michael Jin, vice president of the Chinese Student Association.
The idea for Lunar New Year comes from an ancient story about a wild beast called Nien who appeared at the end of each year, eating livestock and people. Loud noises and bright lights were used to scare away the beast, and it eventually turned into a celebration with fireworks. Nien is also the Chinese word for “year.” Lunar New Year is the most popular holiday in China and is also celebrated in many Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan as well as the Chinatown sections of many western cities. The main color of this festival is red, which wards against evil and promises good fortune.
This festival is very important to the Asian community. “It’s basically like how Americans celebrate Christmas,” said Jin, explaining that just as much preparation and excitement is put into this holiday as into Christmas. Evangeline Yang, a member of the Taiwanese Student Association, said that Asians usually celebrate this holiday with their families, going “to paternal family on the first day of the event and maternal one on the second day.” According to Lin Zhu, one of the event’s main organizers, many international Asian BC students aren’t with their families around this time of the year. “I hold this event to let all Asian students feel warm in Spring Festival,” she said. Kari Li, who is in charge of public relations for the Chinese Student Association shared Zhu’s sentiment, saying “we want to help Chinese and International students feel at home.”
During the event on Friday, members of the programs and guests celebrated with traditional Chinese food including chow mein and fried rice. Traditional Chinese and Indonesian dancers performed as well as a professional kung fu group and singers. Li said she was looking forward to the performances, not only because she spent many hours promoting this festival, but also because “we would like to have multicultural experiences and events for everyone who is interested in different cultures.”
According to Jin, organizing an event like this takes a huge amount of work, especially since it is the first time this event is being held at Bellevue College. “First, we had to come up with the concept,” said Jin, “then we had to get the groups to perform and the food and the place to do it. It’s my first time as vice president, so I want it to be good.” Despite this pressure, Jin said that he was excited to continue his term. “We want to organize many more Chinese events this year and make the Lunar New Year celebration a yearly thing,” he said.