Members of the Lehigh University Chinese Students and Scholars Association perform at this years Spring Festival Gala at Zoellner Arts Center on Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. The annual Spring Festival Gala celebrates the 2016 Chinese Lunar New Year, the Year of the Monkey. (Toni Isreal/B&W photo)

Chinese New Year gala unifies Lehigh, community with Chinese culture

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A group of students involved in organizing the Chinese New Years Gala stood by the entrance of Baker Hall, ready to present what they considered a unifying experience for their community to celebrate their culture’s most important holiday.

Last Friday, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association hosted their second-annual Chinese New Year Gala to celebrate Chinese culture while ringing in the new year of the monkey, the ninth of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac cycle. The monkey embodies ambition, intelligence and mischief.

The focus of the CSSA is to bring Chinese undergraduate and graduate students, as well as visiting scholars, together in order to provide a safe, open environment for people to get to know one another while also participating in cultural events and sports competitions. The main purpose of the club is to provide a place of comfort for students who are from China and to surround them with memories of home. However, the CSSA also welcomes individuals hoping to learn about Chinese culture.

The Chinese New Year Gala, the largest event hosted by the club, saw an attendance of about 500 people including students, professors, members of the local community and even children from the Lehigh Valley Children’s Center.

“In past years, we have had small groups of students get together to celebrate,” said Leah Lui, ’16, vice president of the CSSA. “They stay in their homes and cook dumplings and watch TV shows.”

Instead of celebrating the Chinese New Year at home this year, many people were given the opportunity to spend time with community members. One of the core tenets of celebrating the Chinese New Year is to be reunited with friends and family, so the CSSA created the gala in order to bring together those who aren’t able to see their families.

“Chinese New Year is a very big deal for all Chinese (people), and it’s really hard for us to get back to China to celebrate it with our family,” said Amoreny Duan, ’19, a gala performer and member of the CSSA. “But here we can join the show.”

Not only did Duan attend the gala with a group of her close friends, but her performance in one of three sitcoms entitled “You Are The One,” linked her to friends, family and their shared culture.

The president of the CSSA, Dafu Gao, said that in order to make the gala the most successful unifying event possible, he only slept two or three hours per night. As a graduate student who studies mechanical engineering, he spent all of the time that he could to make the New Year celebration one to remember.

“Sometimes Chinese (students) find it very hard to get involved,” Goa said. “Their spirit is quite different. The role of the culture is just to be friendly with Chinese and others and we just want to hang out with foreigners.”

The CSSA was motivated to bring together Chinese community members and students from Princeton University in order to expand the celebrations. Last year, the group brought in students from Rutgers University to partake in the celebration of Chinese customs and traditions.

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