Harmony in Flavor: Andover’s Lunar New Year Food Festival

Students celebrated Chinese culture through a variety of different dishes.

The Chinese New Year Food Festival was held in Underwood last Saturday by the Chinese Parent Association and Parents of Students of Phillips Academy Andover (PSPA). The festival celebrated the beginning of the Year of the Dragon through traditional Chinese food. Not just a culinary experience that welcomed students, faculty, and families to indulge in an array of Chinese delicacies, the event also served as a window into the vibrant tapestry of Chinese culture.

Quin Langham ’26, intrigued by their friend’s description of last year’s festival, decided to experience the event for themselves this time around. Their favorites included the steamed bunny-shaped bun and Szechuan beef. They reflected on how the food provided a taste of China, as well as insights into the significance of Lunar New Year celebrations. 

“I love attending cultural events, as you get to see a glimpse into the culture through food and music… I live in Brooklyn, which has many Chinese American takeout stores, and that was my exposure to Chinese food. However, many people have told me how different Chinese American food is compared to traditional Chinese food… [so] I wanted to see what was going to be offered,” said Langham. 

Shixun Song ’26, a Chinese student, found solace in the familiarity of the dishes that evoked nostalgic memories of his childhood in China. He also commented on the continuous growth of the event, noting how this year’s festival was more enjoyable and widely attended compared to previous years.

“As a Chinese student, it’s always really fun to come to these events. To see all the people, enjoy the food from our culture. My mom is also here as she brought food. I think it is really cool, despite being so culturally diverse, [that] people can come together and appreciate one specific culture,” said Song.

Jessie Zheng ’27, echoing the sentiments of many attendees, reveled in the opportunity to savor traditional Chinese dishes. Her appreciation for the authenticity of the food underscored the event planner’s dedication to honoring and celebrating the unique traditions and identities of its community members. 

“I came to the food festival as my mom was bringing candy. We bought tons of white rabbit candy along with guava hard candy. I also came as I knew there would be good food there… It made me happy that on campus I was able to have a dinner that tasted good. I feel as though the [Paresky] Commons doesn’t always have the best options during dinner. [I think that] when you let a certain ethnicity or country celebrate their own culture, most of the time it ends up a lot better than if an organization or school tried to do it,” said Zheng. 

Jeanne Xu, a member of the Chinese Parent Association, played a part in organizing the event and curating a selection of Chinese cuisine that would capture its cultural essence. Elaborating on the planning process for the festival, Xu also mentioned that the parents wanted to show their belief in Non sibi.

“One challenge was trying to get many families together on a similar day. Especially for the long weekend… a lot of families were out of town. Last year we had a similar event, and we ran out of food early. So, this year I wanted to make sure that all the parents provide enough food and variety… Some food was catered from a restaurant. Many families, however, made their own foods and brought them in. One of them was the pork bun, which was popular. I made the braised pork belly over rice, and I heard many people enjoyed that dish,” said Xu.

Attendee Mario Calvo ’24 found himself reminiscing on the warmth of home with each bite. He praised the festival’s ability to bridge geographical distances and foster a sense of belonging within the diverse Andover community.

[The festival] really just reminds you of home. [The food was] all home-cooked meals. [It reminded me of] growing up, eating a lot of Mexican food as a kid, [as] both my parents [were] born and raised there… I guess it felt homey to me… You’re never too far from home when you’re on campus,” said Calvo.