Despite being miles away from home, students at Central Michigan University came together Friday to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
The Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is a time for families to come together for the start of a new year. Though Chinese students on campus were far from home, they celebrated the holiday with old and new traditions.
Weijie Gu, a senior hailing from southern China, celebrated Spring Festival with five of her friends. Gu said there are some differences between celebrating in Mount Pleasant and with family in China.
“Here, we get together with friends, but it’s the same atmosphere,” Gu said. “We enjoy ourselves with the same kind of feeling, but there is also a sense of being homesick.”
Many Chinese students celebrated the Spring Festival by attending an event held at Grace Church in Mount Pleasant. It was put on by the CMU Chinese Students and Scholars Association, a registered student organization consisting of more than 300 foreign students.
Students and Mount Pleasant residents came to the Spring Festival event to welcome the Year of the Horse with music and laughter. The celebration started with the members of the CSSA singing a song about togetherness and unity.
The night continued with more musical performances, comedy skits and games. Most of the performances were spoken in Mandarin Chinese. An interpreter translated the dialogue for English speakers in the audience.
In China, schools and businesses take seven days off for Spring Festival. This break, called Golden Week, allows everyone to return to their hometowns and spend the holiday with their families.
“Because of school, the students can’t go back home for the festival,” said Linran Zhang, a CSSA member and Beijing sophomore. “We wanted to put on this party so we can all celebrate together like a family.”
After leaving the Spring Festival event, Gu and her friends went home to make dinner. They cooked dumplings, the traditional food of the Spring Festival, as well as ribs, fish and soup.
While preparing dinner, the group watched the Spring Festival Gala on YouTube. The four-hour television program is broadcast in China every Spring Festival leading up to midnight.
Watching the show has been a Spring Festival tradition for people in China for more than 30 years, Beijing graduate Haopeng Sun said. It is also customary in China for the elders to give money in red envelopes to the children during the festival.
“The money gives them luck for the next year,” Sun said. “It’s a very important activity of Spring Festival, one that you miss out on here.”