Under dim mood lighting in the University of Georgia’s lantern-filled Memorial Hall ballroom, students gathered for a night of celebration at the Student Association’s Spring Festival event and Chinese scholars from UGA on Saturday evening.
Spring Festival, also known as Chinese New Year, is the biggest holiday in China and is usually a time to gather with friends and family to observe the New Year. For UGA’s Chinese international students, the festival is an opportunity to come together with their campus community to commemorate their culture.
“This event is very important for Chinese international students because when you miss your family and cannot return home, there is a place to gather and become a family. It is also a time to expand and appreciate our culture away from home,” said CSSA Vice President of Public Relations Jianingn Zhang.
The night began with lively mahjong games and stations where guests could create their own fai chun, or traditional decorations with phrases for luck and prosperity written on them. Performers rehearsed songs and dances backstage on stage as the audience’s excitement grew. Performer Tina Tong said the ballroom was filled with “lots of love and a feeling of home”.
Soon the show began, opening with an explosive K-pop inspired group number that set the tone for the performances to come. The night’s acts ranged from graceful fiddle solos by musicians in traditional Tang costumes and qipaos to rousing chants and chants, each ending with a burst of applause from the attendees.
Festival attendee Zhuoxuan Liang enjoyed all of the evening’s performances. “I like that there was a lot of classical Chinese dance with Chinese music and they incorporated K-pop music and dance,” Liang said.
Singing and dancing alongside the Chinese performers, groups of students wanted to learn more about the culture and rehearsed with the CSSA for more than six months before the event. This diversity on stage matched the diversity of the audience, creating space for appreciation and participation in the event.
A staple of the Spring Festival is the exchange of “red pockets”, a tradition in which elders give children small red bags of money to represent the passing of good fortune from one generation to the next. The CSSA festival put a twist on this custom and provided each guest with a red pouch containing tickets for prizes such as a new television or microwave oven. The winners were greeted with group hugs and cheers as they ran to the stage to claim their prizes.
During the evening, a dinner filled with traditional Chinese sweets was served to the guests. Dishes such as Yuxiang pork and basil-braised tofu quickly sold out as guests gathered around their tables to enjoy the performances with their dinner. While the meal itself was a hit with attendees, CSSA’s greatest success was being able to create a sense of camaraderie among students after a long period of isolation during the pandemic.
“It’s very exciting for us because over the past two years our organization has overcome so many challenges due to COVID. Many students have not returned to the United States and as we were doing online classes in China, we weren’t able to hold any events. We are finally back and able to bring the community together,” said CSSA President Jiaxi Li.
The event ended with people of all ages, races and backgrounds wishing each other well in the coming New Year, fulfilling CSSA’s goal of bringing a piece of their home and a sense of community to the ‘UGA.