East Asian Languages Department Hosts Lunar New Year Celebration

The East Asian Languages and Cultures Department held a Lunar New Year celebration on Feb. 15 in Pacific Ballroom D. The event was a collaboration among UCI cultural organizations and cultural groups in the local community.

Beyond musical and dance performances, several workshops like origami lessons and flower arrangement sessions were being held all around the ballroom.

Professors of the East Asian Languages Department helped coordinate the activities and performances. The sponsors of the event included East Asian Languages and Literatures, Program of Academic English/ESL, DUE, Center for Asian Studies, Humanities Language Learning Program, School of Humanities Dean’s Office and Office of Global Engagement.

In addition to craft activities, the celebration also included performances from several groups, especially featuring performances by Gio Nam (Southern Wind Lion Dance), YAYA Dance Academy, Hansori and TaiKomotion.

First-year Chinese language students’ choir opened the event by performing a Chinese New Year’s song. Then Michael Fuller, the Department Chair and a professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures, gave a speech thanking the sponsors and the department for all the hard work put into organizing the event.

Next, Gio Nam put on a Southern Wind Lion Dance, which is traditionally performed on the Lunar New Year. This was followed by a speech given by Dr. Robin Scarcella, the Director of the Program in Academic English and ESL.

After that, TaiKomotion put on a traditional Japanese Taiko drum performance. Two ladies representing the YAYA Dance Academy then performed the academy’s first traditional Chinese dance.

Hansori, a traditional Korean drumming club at UCI, had the last performance before the raffle for workshops occurred.

Following the raffle, YAYA Dance Academy had its second and final traditional Chinese dance performance for the day.

Two performances from the Korean Traditional Dance Institute of California concluded the performances for the event.

Other Lunar New Year events held at UCI included a street festival in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Gateway Plaza on Feb. 12. The event included food tastings, dancers, music and fireworks. The UCI Chinese Students and Scholars Association also held a 2018 Lunar New Year Gala in the Bren Events Center on Feb. 17.

Lunar New Year is the most important holiday in many East Asian countries and cultures. In 2018, Lunar New Year began on Feb. 16 and marked the beginning of the Year of the Dog. The holiday has traditionally been a time to honor household and heavenly deities as well as ancestors. It is also a time to bring family together for feasting.

The most important tradition surrounding the Lunar New year is the feasting. On New Year’s Eve, all of the extended family joins around a large table for a meal that includes fish as its final course. The pronunciation of fish in Chinese is the same as the pronunciation for abundance and prosperity, so the fish is symbolic of abundance and therefore must be eaten for good luck. However, the fish  cannot be eaten completely in order to symbolize having an abundance of food provisions for the coming year.

In the first five days of the New Year, people eat long noodles to symbolize longevity. On the 15th and final day of the New Year, sweet round dumplings made of glutinous rice flour and shaped like the full moon are shared as a symbol of the harmonious family unit.