Lunar New Year Dinner Celebrates Diverse Traditions with Performance, Presentations, and Platters

The Lunar New Year dinner featured different dishes from many Asian
cuisines, including mapo tofu, fried rice, and scallion pancakes.

The Lunar New Year dinner celebration began with a dance to upbeat traditional Indian music, performed by four members of the Asian dance club “Footsteps.” They complemented the fast-paced rhythms with rapid steps, changing their formations and echoing each other’s moves. As the music faded out, the four performers ended their dance at this year’s dinner with a twirl and stepped off the dance floor.

The annual dinner was organized by the Andover Chinese Students Association (A.C.S.A.) and Lilia Cai-Hurteau, Instructor and Chair in Chinese and Japanese, to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which was this past Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. This year, the dinner incorporated presentations on different Asian cultural influences and festive traditions.

“It gives a certain group of students an outlet for celebrating something that’s important for them. Different kids have different [traditions], and I think that’s what makes a diverse community so amazing, because you get to do different things and see how other people celebrate their culture,” said Cai-Hurteau.

The celebration dinner offered an assortment of dishes, including fried rice, mapo tofu, and scallion pancakes. Many of the dishes were ordered from the restaurant Szechuan Gourmet, while others were made by day student families. According to Adrienne Li ’19, the Co-Head of Asian Society, the efforts of day students reflects on the strength of the Andover Asian community.

“I think it shows how strong a community we have… There’s a pretty strong network of day student parent who are willing to help out for events like this, and I feel like we don’t always realize that. Also, it’s more symbolic [to have] home-made food, which is different from restaurant made food. I think it gives a different feel,” said Li.

This year, the event aimed to focus on Lunar New Year rather than just Chinese New Year in order to be inclusive of the entire Asian community at Andover.

“This year we actually try to make it more like a Lunar New Year [theme], so [it is] inclusive of all cultures, rather than just Chinese New Year. In previous years, it was just Ms. [Cai-Hurteau] and A.C.S.A. that hosted it, but this year [we] opened it up more to the Asian Society… people who wanted to talk about their culture and on the Lunar New Year––they were all welcome,” said Li.

The Lunar New Year dinner celebration also featured a presentation by Jason Huang ’21, who introduced the audience to traditional Chinese costumes and their evolution over history. According to Huang, he wanted to become more involved with the Chinese community at Andover and introduce more of Chinese culture to the Andover community.

“I decided to dress up like an ancient Chinese [person] and talk a little bit about ancient Chinese costumes because ancient Chinese costumes is a quite rare topic. For Japan, they have kimonos [and] for Korea, they have hanboks. But for China, there isn’t a very decided ancient costume for people to wear, so I like to elaborate more on why there isn’t [a unique costume],” said Huang.

In addition to Huang’s presentation, Wendy Wu ’20 played the Erhu, a Chinese string instrument.

Cai-Hurteau said, “Wendy plays the Erhu, and I think it’s really important to have Asian instruments being incorporated as this is a big part of our culture, to be able to showcase that as well.”

According to Li, the Lunar New Year dinner celebration gave Andover students who celebrate the Lunar New Year the opportunity to practice their traditions and establish a sense of belonging on the campus.

“I just wanted the students to feel like they have a space and they feel supported on campus and so they’re not feeling lonely, because I know a lot of students plan to go to Boston [and] Chinatown to find places to eat and celebrate with their friends, but I also wanted them to feel like they have something to do on campus and that there’s also a community that feels the same way that they do,” said Li.