The sound of laughter and chatter filled the Underwood Room as students conversed with each other at large circular tables during last Saturday night’s Lunar New Year dinner. Hosted by the Andover Chinese Students Association (ACSA) and the Chinese Language Club (CLC), the dinner brought people of all ethnicities and backgrounds together to share authentic Chinese foods, such as bok choy, dumplings, sweet and sour fried fish, and scallion pancakes, in celebration of the Year of the Rooster.
“I think it’s important for people to realize how important [Lunar New Year] is for Asians. It’s actually equivalent to how much Christmas is regarded — how important it is — and I think ASCA understands the students’ needs to reunite and talk about it. I think it’s significant because they understand how we feel,” said Skylar Xu ’20, a participant of the dinner.
The dinner celebration consisted of cultural presentations, karaoke, and a performance on the guzheng, a traditional Chinese stringed instrument, from Alex Ma ’17, co-head of ACSA.
“I just wanted to play [the guzheng] to share a piece of Chinese culture with people. Especially because it’s more of an obscure instrument, and I thought it would be really interesting for some people to experience. A lot of the faculty kids are usually really curious about my guzheng so there were a lot of them there, and some of them asked me to play it beforehand so I did,” said Ma.
Lunar New Year is one of the most significant holidays in Chinese culture and remains a time for those to celebrate the start of another year not only through food, but more importantly, alongside family.
“We just really wanted to have an event where everyone could celebrate together and kind of foster that feeling of a family because we know that a lot of international students won’t be with their family during [Lunar] New Year which is kind of like Thanksgiving or Christmas in China, so we just wanted to make sure that people could be around their friends and talk about Chinese culture and traditions and get to eat great food at the same time,” said Ma. “I think being [there] with all of my fellow ACSA people and just all of the Chinese students and students of Chinese heritage all in one room and just hanging out with each other, that kind of felt like family to me.”
Although Lunar New Year is typically regarded as an Asian holiday, students and faculty from a diverse range of backgrounds gathered together to celebrate on campus.
“[I was surprised when I saw] how many different people [came] because when I conceive of this event, I think of it as for Chinese students or Asian students. But when it actually happens, half the people here are not actually Asian, and they are here to learn about the event. Part of the process of selling the tickets is when you are sitting there and people are like, ‘What are you doing?’ So just by selling the tickets, we are raising awareness for the holiday,” said Ding.
The proceeds from the admission tickets of the dinner will be donated to a charity in China called the WILL Foundation, which, according to Lilia Cai-Hurteau, Instructor in Chinese and faculty advisor to ACSA and CLC, is a home for disabled orphans. The donations will assist in building a new and safer home for the kids.
“A few Andover alumni and parents are connected to [the WILL Foundation], so it’s a charity that is somewhat connected to us and maybe near and dear to some Andover people’s hearts, so we thought that that was a good cause to support as well… [Overall, the dinner was] a really good way for [the members of the clubs] to organize something, so that puts their leadership skills to use, and all for a good cause,” said Cai-Hurteau.
This is ACSA and CLC’s second year hosting the Lunar New Year dinner. The event has allowed Asian students to feel more welcome, according to Allison Zhu ’19.
“At home, [Lunar New Year] is really important for my family. We usually always celebrate it with family, and the fact that the school made efforts in ensuring that students had a part of this at school was really important and made me feel really happy inside. Knowing that people knew about [Lunar New Year] was really cool,” said Zhu.