Campus Rings in Chinese New Year With Special Dinner, Show in Kemper

Kung Hei Fat Choy! (Happy New Year in Cantonese). With the Chinese New Year approaching, the Phillips Academy community commemorated the Year of the Goat with a series of events last week, including a popular dinner in Commons and the annual student talent show in Kemper Auditorium on Wednesday night. Organized by the Chinese Department and by a number of student organizations on campus, the celebration focused on various aspects of the nation’s history and how people now celebrate the arrival of the New Year according to the lunar calendar. As students and faculty set up Chinese game boards in Commons, students returning from sports were greeted with dining tables covered in festive red tablecloths, lanterns, fans, and other traditional decorations. As students and faculty alike enjoyed a dinner of authentic Chinese food and read fortune cookies, they watched a costume display that featured several faculty children donning a large dragon costume. Local Chinese children who are involved in Andover Chinese Cultural Outreach, a campus community service program, also participated in the costume show and dragon dance. At the same time, the Chinese Language Club sold products in the lobby of Commons to raise money. Following the dinner in Commons, the talent show took place at 6:30 pm in Kemper Auditorium. Every Chinese class performed a play showcasing the language skills that they have learned throughout the academic year. The skits were mostly humorous, ranging in topic from the contemporary to the traditional. Parodies of “I Love Lucy,” “The Bachelor” and “Iron Chef,” were included. More serious matters, such as the history of China and an interpretive dance choreographed to a Chinese poem, were also significant parts of the talent show. The students performed to an audience made up of other students, faculty members, and local families. “It was so funny! I was laughing the whole time!” said Chinese- Taiwanese Student Association (CTSA) President Justin Ng ’03. Although some of the students in attendance did not understand Mandarin, a Chinese dialect, they had little trouble following the plot lines with the help of Chinese speakers in the audience and the exaggerated acting of the students. “I thought that overall it went well. People really seemed to enjoy the skits, and I think it was a good way to share the spirit of Chinese New Year with the campus,” reflected Chinese Language Club Co-President Boo Littlefield ’03. Commenting on the importance of the cultural celebration, Chinese Department Chair Dr. Yuan Han, sponsor of the events, remarked that he hoped students would “join us to have fun.” He continued, “I want to enhance the awareness of students about the culture of the Chinese, both the language and the country itself, and help the students understand its history. I want them to know the background of the holiday and about the culture behind it. This is why I think it is important to celebrate the New Year: for cultural awareness.” Chinese Language Club Co-President Kristina Chang ’04 elaborated on Dr. Han’s statement, saying, “Our job as the Chinese Language Club is to breach the culture gap between PA students and the Chinese students of Andover and to help introduce the students to a popular holiday like Chinese New Year.” Last Wednesday, CTSA traveled to the Andover Senior Center on Bartlet Street and participated in an outreach effort to celebrate and illustrate the history of the New Year’s holiday to the seniors. They entertained the seniors with skits and a lion dance. Although the origin of the holiday appears hard to trace, the New Year’s legend draws upon the myth of a hideous, man-eating beast called Nian, who was wreaking havoc upon the Chinese people until an old man came to the rescue. This savior, an immortal god, instructed the people to hang red paper decorations on their doors and windows in order to ward Nian away from their homes. Now, such advice has given rise to the placement of red lanterns on the columns of Samuel Phillips Hall and to the term “Guo Nian,” which originally meant, “Survive Nian,” but now translates into “Celebrate the New Year.” The customs practiced now every year on Chinese New Year have passed from generation to generation. Revelers spend the evening before the New Year feasting on traditional foods such as dumplings and noodles, and spending time with family members while playing cards or board games. Family members traditionally give gifts or money to each other. Tomorrow, the actual day that the Chinese New Year falls this year, the International Club plans to make a trip into Boston, where American students will pair up with International studets for an afternoon at a dim sum restaurant. Littlefield said, “Though I’m not Chinese, I absolutely love Chinese New Year.”