Late in the evening, the Chinese New Year celebration in Marcum Conference Center drew to a close and the hustle and bustle of Miami University students quieted to a dull roar.
As the crowd started to trickle into the night, third-year international student Annie Zhang began to recall some of her favorite traditions and memories of celebrating the New Year back in her home city of Beijing.
“Traditionally we have a seven day holiday for the Spring Festival,” said Zhang. “Everyone has time off, and during the day no one is in the streets. Normally, Beijing is a very busy city, but during the holiday there isn’t a lot of social traffic and the subways run once, maybe twice a day.”
For many people who commute to work in China’s larger cities, this is the only time of year when they can see their immediate families. During this time off, families spend the day together indoors, lounging and snacking. The evening before New Year’s Day, families will often have a reunion dinner and decorate the house with red paper cutouts and couplets — traditional two line poems either carved into wood or written on red paper.
One of Zhang’s favorite memories of celebrating in China is watching the annual television show “True One,” a traditional variety show viewed by all during the Chinese New Year.
“All people will see the TV show and they have a lot of fun things like dancing, singing and games all festival long,” said Zhang.
However, this year, she didn’t watch the show. Instead, Zhang took part in hosting the celebration by helping the game tables at the Chinese Students & Scholars Association’s Chinese New Year festival.
This year’s Chinese New Year Celebration was the largest to date, with nearly 300 people in attendance, thanks to local partnerships and sponsoring from Late Night Miami.
The first floor of the Marcum Conference Center swelled with the chatter of students playing team games, a mixture of traditional Chinese and American music and the CSSA’s cultural informational videos playing in the background.
An announcer excitedly shouted contest results and festival information.
Dog-themed decorations hung from the door frames and lined the hallways, walls and game tables in honor of 2018 being the year of the dog.
The scents of traditional Chinese foods filled the main room as pan after pan of spring rolls, fried rice, dumplings and seasoned tofu were brought out.
Game tables lined the perimeter of the two rooms attracting droves of students to partake in team competitions. A variety of games including ring toss, charades, number-guessing and — perhaps the most difficult — a puppy-themed scavenger hunt.
Students, parents and faculty enjoyed Chinese candy and treats while eagerly searching for the pictures of dogs, pairing couplets together and even singing karaoke to earn stickers, prizes and good-luck envelopes.
Traditionally, the Chinese New Year festival is meant to honor deities and ancestors over a two-week period starting the evening before the first day. Each day has specific festivities and customs leading up to the lantern festival on the last evening.The end of the New Year festival takes place around the 15th day of the first month on the lunisolar calendar.
More so than honoring ancestors, the celebration is meant to bring family and friends together in celebration.
“We all come together, we watch shows, we play some games and just spend time with each other, so this has a very similar feel to back home,” said Zhang
While the CSSA didn’t have 12 days to celebrate the upcoming year of the dog, the Chinese New Year Celebration in Marcum successfully captured the true spirit of the holiday.
The celebration concluded with the remainder of attendees lighting small fireworks to usher in the New Year of the dog.