Chinese and Taiwanese Cultural Association hosts Lunar New Year celebration
On Feb. 27, Willamette’s Chinese & Taiwanese Cultural Association (CTCA) hosted an event to celebrate the 2022 Lunar New Year. This year the holiday fell on Feb. 1, and the event was originally going to be held on Feb. 12 to better coincide with that, but CTCA postponed the celebration due to COVID-19 safety considerations after the Omicron variant caused a surge in cases. The event was held on the second floor of the Putnam University Center (UC) and consisted of a semicircle of tables with a variety of grab-and-go food and activities for students to partake in.
The Lunar New Year, also known as the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, is one of the most important celebrations in China and other countries with significant Chinese populations or influenced by Chinese culture such as South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and other nations across the world. The holiday has a rich history of over 3,500 years of celebration. The Chinese New Year is traditionally celebrated for 15 days and on each day there are various traditions and superstitions to ensure a lucky year. For example, it’s said that you shouldn’t take your trash out the night before the new year or wash your hair on the first day, as you’ll wash away the luck.
On the importance of luck in the Lunar New Year and in Chinese culture generally, Willamette Professor of Chinese studies, Juwen Zhang said, “Chinese luck is often expressed through the character 福(fu) which you see all over. I think it’s important to understand the Chinese sense of luck is not associated with any specific religion but it’s more practical in terms of living a happy, prosperous life, longevity, family reunion–all those are the sense of 福 or good fortune. It’s not exclusive but rather inclusive. And that’s why it functions as a very important cultural value that’s united the culture for 1,000 years.”
For CTCA’s president, Angie Wang (‘23), who was born in China and raised in America, the Chinese New Year is one of the most significant ways she’s remained connected to her heritage. “Like with all different types of new year celebrations for different cultures, it’s a very big event because it marks the new year for them. Chinese and Taiwanese people take it very seriously,” said Wang. When asked about her favorite Lunar New Year memory, Wang recalled, “A few years ago, my family hosted a giant Chinese New Year dinner. My mom really went all out and made probably seven or eight dishes and it was a huge gathering.” She went on to describe how the holiday is a way for her to connect with her culture not only through the food but also through the variety of traditions centered around luck and prosperity, two very important values in Chinese culture. CTCA’s event aimed to give the Willamette community a taste of the vast expanse of ways in which the Lunar New Year is celebrated. Upon arrival, attendees received large paper bags to fill with their food and goodies. There was an array of traditional foods provided by Bon Appetit, which sponsors Willamette’s dining hall services, including noodles, pork dumplings or veggie jackfruit, mapo tofu, rice, steamed bok choy, tangerines and almond cookies. The tangerines, dumplings and noodles, nicknamed longevity noodles, all hold symbolic significance, representing longevity, wealth and luck in the new year. In addition to these meals, there was a tea station with a wide array of loose-leaf selections from Wabi Sabi Tea for students to choose from and fill their own tea bags with.
CTCA also provided several crafts for participants to enjoy. There were stations with supplies for students to create their own keychains using Chinese knot-tying, as well as colored paper to construct their own Chinese paper lanterns. Another important Chinese New Year festivity is the wishing tree, where people write a wish for the coming year on a slip of paper and tie it to a tree branch, adorning it so it appears to have leaves. The UC’s makeshift wishing tree was fastened out of a couple of cords strung up like a laundry line. Guests got to select a tag with their corresponding Chinese zodiac animal to write their wish on before hanging it on a line.
In the past, CTCA’s Lunar New Year celebration has featured interactive performers including musicians who have mastered traditional Chinese instruments and dancers who mimicked the movements of a lion in a massive multi-person ornate lion costume. Wang said the decision to make the celebration a grab-and-go event was a reluctant one, but one that they made with the student body’s best interest in mind. “We just wanted to offer students a great place to learn about and experience Chinese New Year within COVID-safe parameters,” said Wang. CTCA meets every Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. in the Digital Learning Studio. Good luck, Bearcats, in 2022, the year of the tiger!