Belated New Years, lantern festival celebration on campus

The+celebration+was+held+in+Room+254+in+the+Alumni+Memorial+Union

Photo by Josh Meitz

The celebration was held in Room 254 in the Alumni Memorial Union

Smells of cumin lamb, dry chili chicken and tomato fried egg filled room 254 in the Alumni Memorial Union Friday night as students gathered to celebrate Chinese New Year.

The Chinese Students & Scholars Association began their New Year with their Chinese Lantern Festival Feb. 18.

“The celebration of the Chinese New Year begins on Chinese New Year’s Eve. Since China has historically followed a lunar calendar, the specific dates change every year. Families from across China and around the world will return to their homes for a feast, traditionally consisting of dumplings, fish, and noodle dishes,” Matthew Trecek, the Chinese Culture & Charity Club president and a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said.

The Lunar New Year was celebrated on Feb. 1. The celebration on Feb. 18 was meant to conclude all New Years’ activities for the Chinese Students and Scholars Association. The Chinese Lantern Festival, which the Chinese Students & Scholars Association celebrates, is also part of the festivities shared between students.

The Chinese Lantern Festival originated over 2,000 years ago, under the Han dynasty. Buddhist monks would light lanterns in temples every 15th day of the first lunar month for worshippers. It soon became customary in China and some of its surrounding countries to light lanterns at homes and other venues.

“Since I joined the club, there’s been a New Year’s celebration almost every year,” Wangji He, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association president and a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said.

COVID-19 halted the celebrations for a couple of years. There have been no official Chinese New Year celebrations from the Chinese Scholars and Students Association since 2019.

“In Chinese New Year, we stay with our families and have dinner together, and then we light firecrackers, and the elders give children money in red envelopes. Since we’re a big group, I want everyone to feel at home. Since we’re a big group, I want to help everyone feel like they have a slice of home,” He said.

The Chinese Lantern Festival is typically held on the 15th day of the first month of the Lunar calendar. The celebration is meant to honor deceased ancestors and promote reconciliation, peace, and forgiveness.

“After the New Year, celebrations usually don’t stop there. A few smaller days of significance that families celebrate at the beginning of the year. It all culminates with the Lantern Festival two weeks after New Year. Under the full moon, people will release lanterns into the sky to honor their ancestors and to shine a light on the year ahead,” Trecek said.

Lunar New Year celebrations usually have an emphasis on family and togetherness.
“For Chinese living abroad (like in America, for example), this time is usually used to get together with friends and call their families back home,” Trecek said.

More than 30 students were present at the festivity, enjoying food, games, and other activities.

“Since Covid started two years ago, I’ve been almost completely isolated. I needed social activity with people I know and trust. This is the first or second public gathering I’ve attended since then. This is great for us to reconnect, relax, and recharge,” Xiaolong Wang, a graduate student and member of the Chinese Students & Scholars Association, said.

After eating, the students played several games and activities, including building with clay dough and charades.

This story was written by Clara Lebrón. She can be reached at clara.lebron@marquette.edu