Rutgers Chinese Students & Scholars Association holds Chinese New Year celebration at State Theater
Vividly colored red lanterns and pink and white fans overlooked the stage at the State Theater on Sunday night for the Rutgers Chinese Students & Scholars Association’s (RCSSA) celebration of the Chinese New Year.
The group’s Spring Festival Gala, co-sponsored by the Rutgers China Office, featured dancing, singing and martial arts from various performers across New Jersey and New York. Students from Steven’s Institute of Technology and Columbia University were among the performers that joined Rutgers groups on stage.
More than 500 attendees watched the celebration, including Chen Qian, a Rutgers Business School sophomore and member of RCSSA.
Chinese New Year is a long tradition that takes place on Feb. 8, Qian said. The festival represents the reuniting of family and friends, which is why the Chinese find it important to celebrate each year.
“The Chinese New Year was about two weeks ago. We couldn’t have this (event) on the specific day, so we’re having it today,” he said.
The Chinese zodiac has 12 animal symbols. This new year is the "Year of the Monkey,” which marks the ninth of the 12-year Chinese Lunar Calendar cycle. The monkey represents invention and improvisation, and the monkey spirit encourages gambling and speculation.
“It’s the most important festival in China,” he said. “It’s like the equivalent to the Western Christmas Eve.”
Each year, the festival's performers are adorned in red, a color with cultural significance.
"(Red) signifies happiness, passion and good luck," Qian said.
RCSSA members handed out red envelopes prior to the event that represented good luck. During many Chinese holidays, red packets usually contain monetary gifts and are meant to ward off evil spirits.
Qian, an international student from China, arrived in the United States only two years ago. In a new country with limited English proficiency, Qian said he found a piece of home in RCSSA.
"This is my second year in the United States. Before I came here, I couldn't speak English and even now, my English is not so good," he said. "For me, I joined RCSSA to find a foreign home here."
Rutgers has more than 2,000 Chinese students, Qian said. RCSSA's goal is to unite Chinese students and give them a home away from home.
But like all Rutgers students, Qian shares a love for his school with his peers. He said he chose to attend Rutgers for its location and established business school.
“We can provide a comfortable environment for them so they can fit themselves in to American society faster,” Qian said. "RSCCA is doing a good job here. I would be willing to join this family."
In addition to the performers on stage, The Rutgers China Care Club gave their own presentation at the event in order to collect donations for One Sky. One Sky is a non-profit organization that aims to enrich and empower the lives of orphaned children in China.
Before entering the theater, audience members could view the RCCC's display about One Sky. The display showed the work that RCCC has done for Chinese orphans and even showcased photos of several of the orphans positively affected by the program. A guitarist stood next to the presentation singing songs in both English and Chinese.
Rutgers China Care Club is one of many One Sky college chapters in the United States, including chapters at Pennsylvania State University, Harvard University and Princeton University.
Dahlia Nelson, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, is majoring in East Asian studies, and said she has had a passion for serving the people of China for a long time.
"Our goal is to raise money and awareness and to send those funds to One Sky," Nelson said. "We want to raise awareness about the lack of access they have."
As for the celebration of the Chinese New Year, Nelson said she and her club members hope happiness is extended to orphans in China.
"There are certain wishes that Chinese people say instead of just saying, 'Have a Happy New Year,'" Nelson said. "They wish for good health and abundance, which is what we want for our orphans. We are extending good will to everyone here, but we also want to extend good will to everyone in China."
Avalon Zoppo is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in political science. She is the managing editor of The Daily Targum. Find her on Twitter @avalonzoppo.