The Year of the Rabbit is in full swing, marking a period of prosperity and hope for the coming weeks and months.
While many students at UNC were away from their families for the Chinese New Year, individuals say that the University community came together to make campus feel like home during this special time.
Students across campus celebrated in a variety of ways to ring in the New Year.
Rebecca Du, a junior international student from Shanghai and the president of the student-led organization Friendship Association of Chinese Students and Scholars, celebrated with her friends this year.
Du said she fondly remembers celebrating Chinese New Year as a child. Her favorite part was always the fireworks. This year, she took it upon herself to buy fireworks and light them with friends on the fifth day of Chinese New Year, when people celebrate the God of Fortune.
“Lunar New Year is my favorite holiday in the whole calendar because I just feel like it’s a very noisy holiday,” Du said. “Back in China, we kind of come together, and our family celebrates Lunar New Year for 15 days.”
Aside from student celebrations, UNC faculty and members of the greater Chapel Hill community were just as committed to ringing in the new year in a special way.
Alison Friedman, the executive and artistic director for the Carolina Performing Arts, spent 20 years of her life in China. This year, Friedman collaborated with the Chinese-American Friendship Association of North Carolina, who lent Lunar New Year lanterns to hang up on Cameron Avenue by the Old Well.
Additionally, Friedman was able to invite the Hong Kong Ballet to perform at UNC on the weekend leading up to the start of the Lunar New Year. Before the pandemic, students made up about 25 percent of CPA audiences; however, for the Hong Kong Ballet, 41 percent of the audience was students for the first night of the performance, she said.
Benjamin Huan, a junior at UNC, said Chinese New Year is celebrated like any other holiday in his Chinese-American household. Like most Chinese families, Huan was used to spending time with his loved ones and receiving money from his elders.
Today, Huan is the president of the Chinese Undergraduate Students Association. Along with the interesting rabbit designs that came with this year’s celebration, he was also excited to see how the association's Chinese New Year festival would be enhanced by combining the talents and audiences of both FACSS and CUSA.
The two student organizations celebrated together by hosting a Chinese New Year festival held last Saturday.
Yi Zhou, a teaching professor of Chinese at UNC and student organization advisor for CUSA, said that the event worked to create an inclusive environment.
“During a semester, they cannot go back to China to celebrate, so we all think, well, they must miss their family and their parents and their food and everything in China,” Zhou said. “So we try to provide this kind of home feeling for these students.”
Wendy Wu, an international student from Beijing and a member of FACSS, said she was homesick last year as a first-year student. However, this year was different, she said.
While the event was centered on Chinese New Year, it was open for all to participate. Wu said she was very pleased with the outcome of the event, not only because it brought together both Chinese-American and international students but also reached people from a wide variety of backgrounds.
“I like to introduce this festival to others because I like to get in touch with new cultures, and I think many people do too,” Wu said. “I think for Chinese students, this is a way to connect us together — even if just for one day.”
Wu was responsible for putting together a variety of activities for participants to enjoy. The stations included Chinese calligraphy and painting, chess, and paper cutting – a symbolic craft using paper that is put on one’s window for decoration and good luck.
Wu said it was not surprising that the most popular of all was the dumpling and Tangyuan station, which highlighted foods traditionally eaten during the New Year. Wu taught her other international friends from different parts of China how to make dumplings for Nian Ye Fan — Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner — in her own time.
While all students celebrate the New Year in their own way, many aren’t with family, but Wu said they are surely thinking about them.
“Most of the Chinese students here are international students, which means we are very far away from our families, so Chinese New Year is also a way for us to connect back to our hometown and to express how we miss our hometown and to hear back from our family,” she said. “I think that’s also a way to tell our families that we’re safe and we’re good, and we’re happy. It tends to go way more beyond welcoming in the New Year.”
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