The night of Feb. 7, Winona State University’s East Hall was transformed into the setting for the Chinese New Year’s celebration.
Hosted by the Chinese Student Society, guests experienced traditional elements of Chinese culture, as well as more modern takes according to Pingping Zhang, one of the club advisors.
Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, is the second large-scale event the club has hosted during the school year, with the other one being the Chinese Moon Festival.
Zhang emphasized the significance of the celebration for the Chinese people.
“Chinese New Year’s, in our culture, is like having Thanksgiving and Christmas together in one holiday,” Zhang said.
She went on to say it represents a time of togetherness with family and friends.
Before the evening began, guests were encouraged to look at the decorations which included a photo-op with an enlarged ‘Chinese Student Society’ Instagram cut-out, multi-colored balloons, Chinese lanterns and wall hangings.
The event also featured a wall lined with traditional Chinese outfits, commonly in bright colors with gold embroidery.
Throughout East Hall, a livestream of Chinese music from a YouTube channel called Angelic Music World came through the speakers as guests mingled.
The night began with a performance of “Let it Go” from Disney’s Frozen, which was lip-synced by the club president, Robert Chu.
According to Zhang, this opening number was an homage to what’s popular in China and provided a connection to the more “modern side of the culture.”
Chu donned an Elsa costume, sprayed fake snow into the crowd and danced through East Hall to the musical number.
After the first performance, a video was shown to explain the legend of the Chinese New Year.
Zhang, as well as the video, explained that every year in the lunar calendar, a monster would come and steal neighborhood children.
In order to protect themselves, the Jade Emperor told the Chinese people what would scare the monster away: fireworks, loud sounds and the color red.
Throughout the night, red was a common color for this reason, as well as its significance for the Chinese people to stay happy and warm.
Red was also seen in the gift bags called ‘lucky pockets’ or ‘red pockets.’
According to Chu, the pockets would contain money for children to use as bribery toward the monster.
During the event, this idea was carried out with a big, red envelope that held prize tickets for winners.
The emcees for the night then brought everyone together for the first game of the night.
Each player wore a balloon tied to a rubber band on their ankle and attempted to pop the other players’ balloons; the last person standing was the winner.
Of the first round, junior Katina Gehn won. She talked about why she attended the event.
“I look forward to trying new foods, things that the cafeteria doesn’t usually serve,” Gehn said.
Paige Yang, another event guest, said she has made it a tradition of going to events like the Chinese New Year.
“In the past, I would come for my friend’s performance. But now, I come to enjoy all the food and performances as an ethnic event in Winona,” Yang said.
After a few rounds of the balloon pop game, the guests lined up for a buffet-style dinner of homecooked Chinese food, including a vegetarian cabbage dish and rice and brown beef with beans.
With dinner completed, more song and dance performances followed in a celebratory style.
Zhang expressed what she hoped guests from the night got out of the celebration.
“It’s always nice to get a feeling for a different culture, a different part of the world. For Chinese New Year, doesn’t matter where you are, it’ll always feel like home,” Zhang said.
The opinions expressed in this paper are not necessarily those of Winona State University, the Minnesota State Colleges and University system, or the Winona State University student body.