Students crowded the seventh floor language wing amidst a sea of red paper lanterns and cutouts on Tuesday, February 14. The homemade decorations were the product of weeks of preparation for the language department’s annual Chinese New Year festival.
Chinese New Year, also known as the “Spring Festival,” marks the start of a new year on the Chinese lunisolar calendar. It is a widely celebrated holiday throughout China, and is known for its rich culinary traditions.
The language department hoped to bring that culture to the student body with the second of its annual Chinese New Year celebrations. “I would say [Assistant Principal of World Languages] Dr. [Ernest] Oliveri […] is very supportive. He strongly believes that culture is a really important part of learning a language, so he said we should definitely do something for the Spring Festival. That’s how we started. I also firmly believe that learning a language should not be confined to the classroom,” Mandarin teacher Jia Zhou said.
The language department has engaged in a collective initiative to celebrate more cultural holidays by hosting such events. Since the Día de los Muertos Celebration on November 1, teachers have approached Dr. Oliveri about organizing these festivities for their respective department.
The festival was originally planned for Thursday, February 9, but a snow day forced the event to be rescheduled. The language department had planned for the festival to be held in the library, and reserved the location for the original date. However, because the library was unavailable on the later date, the department was forced to move the event to its seventh floor hallway location.
Despite the last minute changes, the Mandarin department and its students quickly adjusted to the new date. Students brought in a large assortment of Chinese dishes for the celebration, ranging in variety from dumplings to fried rice to egg custard tarts.
The festival attracted a large number of students, causing organizers and student volunteers to quickly become overwhelmed by the large volume of participants. “We weren’t able to limit the number of people attending the event. In the end, everyone crowded the hallway and it was pretty [disorganized],” sophomore Tanya Cao said.
For most attendees, the most notable attractions of the celebration were the food and decorations. “The decorations are beautiful and the food is very authentic. It [feels very] home cooked,” sophomore Melissa Gao said.
Although students enjoyed the festival, some attendees wished that the celebration included more aspects of Chinese culture than just the cuisine. “[The organizers] should teach us some things about the language since we all [take] different languages and we might not know anything about Chinese New Year,” junior Rafsan Hamid said.
In response to this critique, organizers noted that the festival was not originally supposed to focus solely on cuisine. “The main problem was that we had a snow day on Thursday […] so a lot of the presentations and clips we were supposed to see weren’t there,” Gao said.
The language department is already looking forward to next year’s celebration, planning to improve on these along with other issues it faced this year, including the date always falling during Finals Week. “We hope to […] be able to decorate the entire seventh floor. I am also planning on purchasing or finding bigger speakers so students will be able to hear beautiful traditional Chinese music,” Dr. Oliveri said.