BY CORIE LYNN
Most Americans celebrated New Years the night of Dec. 31, but on Friday, Feb. 12, Fort Hays State University faculty and students gathered on campus for a second new year celebration – the Chinese Lunar New Year.
“I think [Lunar New Year is] the most important [holiday] during the whole year, because, really, it’s a super good chance for family to get together,” said Olivia Zhang, a student from China who works in the office of International Student Services.
According to Zhang, this holiday brings good luck and a fresh start to families. It is a fifteen-day celebration that brings together distant relatives for food, firecrackers and traditions.
For the FHSU celebration, attendees received red envelopes filled with chocolate coins and mints and bowls of dumplings rice and spring rolls. The envelopes are typically given to children and unmarried adults for luck while the food is part of the holiday’s traditional menu.
Zhang explained that other traditions include hanging duìlián, or papers with handwritten couplets, on either side of your door, wearing new clothes throughout the fifteen day celebration, and cleaning the house top-to-bottom.
“It’s not the best part, but it’s like trying to dust old dust or ashes,” she said.
Many of the traditions of the Lunar New Year, such as wearing and decorating with the color red, lighting firecrackers and hanging lanterns, began with the belief that these things would scare away the beast Nian.
To continue these traditions, Zhang, dressed in red, led the attendees in paper lantern crafts.
“We don’t usually make it ourselves because there are lots of professionals, and they sell it,” she said. “It’s so pretty, so we stopped doing it by ourselves. Today we’re going to do the crafts for hanging up.”
To learn more about the Lunar New Year, the group watched videos and played a trivia game.
Zhang explained, though, that the celebration was about more than having fun.
“I think, since the Covid, Chinese students are very far away from home, and they cannot go home during the new year or even during the holidays, so I think it’s a good opportunity to kind of get them together,” she said.
Zhang also hoped that the celebration would give people an opportunity to learn more about Chinese culture. For FHSU student Ellika Ptacek, that was exactly why she came.
“The world is just so diverse,” Ptacek said, “and it’s important to just know about things outside of just Kansas. Everybody is different, and it’s good to just broaden your perspective.”
As the new year begins, Zhang also hopes a good year for everyone and that she can return home to visit her loved ones. But for now, she is happy to be a part of FHSU’s Lunar New Year celebration.
“It’s my honor to help with this event,” Zhang said. “And, also, I’m glad we have so many staff members and students that would like to learn some Chinese culture and celebrate Chinese New Year with us.”