A celebration for the longest chronological record in the history of the world took place on campus on Feb. 7, featuring dance, art and wrestling. A Lunar New Year festival, sponsored by the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, brought together students studying four different languages and cultures at UCI.
The event was in honor of the Chinese holiday which began around 2600 B.C. by the Emperor Huang Ti, who introduced the first cycle of the zodiac. The yearly Lunar New Year celebration, based approximately on 12 year-long cycles of the moon, features a different animal for each year. 2005 is the year of the rooster.
Joey Lei, a third-year ICS major and Chinese-American student, says that the New Year gives him a ‘second chance to make New Year’s resolutions and gives me another holiday to celebrate with my family.’ Lei also admits that he does not know all the traditions of the Lunar New Year, but still gets to experience the benefits of the tradition, such as receiving money in decorative red envelopes and eating out with his family, because you ‘aren’t supposed to cook your own dinner for your celebration.’
As part of the East-Asian language department’s emphasis on cultural understanding, the festival was meant to educate students by giving them a firsthand experience of some aspects of the countries they are studying in a fun and entertaining way.
The festival, which lasted from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., included the language programs for Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese, in addition to Chinese. Each program put on a show at one point during the festival, including a hilariously accurate portrayal of Japanese sumo wrestling in which students actually faced off in attempts to knock each other out of a ring while wearing an improvised Mawashi (the Sumo equivalent to a G-string).
Other activities and performances at the festival included origami (the art of paper folding), brush painting, calligraphy, boba from Cha for Tea, flower arrangements, Vietnamese dancing, traditional costumes, Chinese knots and music.
Aaron Steffen, a third-year political science major who is also studying Japanese, enjoyed the sumo wrestling exhibition.
‘I liked the way they didn’t hold anything back,’ Steffen said. ‘The best part was the kid that was sweeping the mat, acting like he was really cleaning stuff up. He was all into it.’
Steffen was not the only one who had a good time at the event, as more than 100 people could be found in the Monarch Bay room at the Student Center at any one time. It was easy to be entertained for a couple of hours at the event and many people took part in the various activities that were offered. In addition to watching the sumo exhibition, a number of students present during the afternoon portion of the festival also participated in other activities such as calligraphy, brushing Kanji (Chinese characters) onto paper to create words with symbolic meaning such as ‘love’ or ‘dragon.’
The festival’s wide range of activities gave the students in the East Asian languages department a chance to come together and experience the different cultures of the region whose languages they are studying. It was also a creative and fun way to celebrate the longest running tradition in the world, the Lunar New Year.
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