The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday January 18th

Chapel Hill lights up for annual Chinese New Year festival

Lanterns hang in the Friday Center during the Chinese New Year Festival on Sunday, February 18th.
Buy Photos Lanterns hang in the Friday Center during the Chinese New Year Festival on Sunday, February 18th.

The Chapel Hill community came together at Sunday's LIGHTUP Festival to celebrate the Chinese New Year and learn about other cultures. The second annual festival was held at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill and hosted by the Chinese School at Chapel Hill. 

 The New Year began on Friday, officially starting the Year of the Dog. Current board chair of The Chinese School and Chapel Hill Town Council member Hongbin Gu organized the event. 

“With the rhetoric going on against immigrants and minorities, I think that for everyone this is important, to realize even though we’re different with different backgrounds we’re all Americans and we can all come together to share our experiences and ideas like one big community,” Gu said.  

LIGHTUP drew a large and diverse crowd from the surrounding areas. Popular events included tracing Chinese characters and dressing up in traditional Chinese costumes for photo-ops. 

"It's a place where people coming from all different backgrounds can share cultural heritage and ideas that this event embodies," Gu said. 

Eight-year-old Eliya Chung said her favorite part was watching the traditional Dragon Dance being performed. Her mom, Erin Chung, brought her four kids to the festival.

“I wanted to expose them to different cultures, and to be around diverse people,” Erin Chung said.

Charles Floyd, one of the dragon dancers, performed at the event for the second year.

“I really love the sense of community,” Floyd said. “Education and knowledge of places around the world helps people come together as a community.”

Students from the Chinese School at Chapel Hill perform at the Friday Center during the Chinese New Year Festival on Sunday, February 18th.

For Chinese Americans, the festival allowed them to celebrate one of their cultural holidays while connecting with others in the community. 

Quohe Zhang, a festival attendee, moved to the United States from China and now currently lives in Durham. 

“There’s different people from different countries,” Zhang said. “It’s a great platform for communication between different people.”

Admission was free for the public and ran by volunteers from programs in the community. 

Volunteer Yuki Yeung participated in the festival for the first time this year. 

“It has a lot of meaning to me because my parents immigrated and it was hard for them to assimilate without giving up part of their culture,” Yeung said.  

Another volunteer, Yan Wei, was at the event with the Confucius Institute at NC State and is a visiting professor from Nanjing Normal University.

“The best part of this event is that people get together and celebrate not only the Chinese New Year, but also for people to reach out to each other,” Wei said. 

The LIGHTUP festival was started after the Town Council had discussions about ways to promote diversity in Chapel Hill, Gu said. After last year's event, organizers wanted to make the event more diverse and inclusive.

“A lot of times we take the inclusivity of Chapel Hill for granted,” she said. “This event brings different people to work together who usually don’t have (this) intersection.”


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