Chinese New Year celebration

Kelsey Misbrener

photos by Jackie Friedman

Although Kent didn’t have the traditional 15-day Chinese New Year celebration, students had the opportunity to attend two Year of the Rabbit parties over the weekend.

Bold, red decorations and crashing-cymbal traditional Asian music transformed a room in White Hall into a party for international students in the College of Education, Health and Human Services on Friday. On a larger scale, all students were invited to the Student Center ballroom Sunday evening to celebrate.

Everything from Chinese opera singing, Oriental dancing and traditional Chinese food to American comedy sketches, beat-boxing and a raffle for NBA basketball game tickets entertained guests in the Year of the Rabbit celebration in the ballroom.

A four-foot-tall rabbit ice sculpture showed the reason for the Chinese and Taiwanese Student Scholar Association’s gathering Sunday: To ring in the year of the rabbit.

To celebrate the New Year in China, Shen Zhen, member of the Chinese Student Scholar Association, said he usually watched the New Year’s program on television, a program very similar to the live event in the ballroom. It that has singing, dancing and magic show skits.

Harrison Chen, junior fashion-merchandising major from South China, said he doesn’t attend New Year’s celebrations like Kent’s in China. He said he usually spends New Year’s at a small gathering with relatives, while Kent’s celebration was much more public, the room filled with people, strangers and friends alike.

Others had never experienced a Chinese New Year before.

Heather Flynn, a graduate student, said she came because her Vietnamese friend told her to check it out.

“I’ve always been interested in Asian culture,” Flynn said. And the Chinese New Year was better, she added, because she “didn’t have to stay up all night.”

Although Johnny Mendez, junior tourism management major, said he couldn’t understand the Chinese-speaking opera singer, he said it was more exciting than what many other Americans might’ve been doing during 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday — watching the Super Bowl.

A similar celebration of the New Year took place Friday.

The Gerald H. Read Center and the Association of International Students in the College of Education, Health and Human Services hosted the event in White Hall.

Ajisa Fukudenji, graduate assistant in the Gerald H. Read Center and organizer of the event, said she wanted to make the event a cultural learning experience for all students Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian and American alike.

“I came to see how they celebrate,” said Roy Sukanto, an international student from Bangladesh. “I’m impressed with their culture and am happy to be a part of the colorful festivity.”

Guests were able to pair their birth years with the appropriate Chinese zodiac sign and make a nametag showing their corresponding zodiac animals. A compatibility list allowed them to meet people with their complementary signs.

Once acquainted, guests could try on bright-red, flowing, traditional Chinese dresses. Two men even put them on and struck a pose.

Chinese and Japanese international students offered a name translation table for guests who wanted their names written in both languages.

Although the celebration was technically for the Chinese New Year, many Asian countries celebrate the same New Year, Aselin Chen, an international student from Taiwan, said.

As a result, Fukudenji, organizer of the event, said she made sure to include other Asian cultures in the celebration too.

The snacks ranged from Chinese fortune cookies to Japanese sushi. At another table, there was Korean tea made by combining a spoonful of Citron jam with hot water for a sweet drink.

Mohamed Abouabdellah, an international student from Morocco, said the experience helped open his mind.

“I came from Morocco to not just discover American culture,” Abouabdellah said, “But others, too.”

Contact Kelsey Misbrener at [email protected].