Chinese New Year celebration features traditional dance and food

Courtesy / Asian Student Union at Grand Valley
Performance at last years Chinese New Year celebration; pictured at top is Linda Teng.

Courtesy / Asian Student Union at Grand Valley Performance at last year’s Chinese New Year celebration; pictured at top is Linda Teng.

Audra Gamble

Though 2014 began nearly a month ago, the Grand Valley State University Asian Student Union is getting ready to celebrate the Chinese New Year tomorrow.

“It’s like renewal, a start over,” said Charlie Gendron, public relations officer of the Asian Student Union. “Most Asian people use the Gregorian calendar, but it’s still a tradition to celebrate. We celebrate with eating, relaxing and having a good time. In a lot of celebrations, you see burning of incense. It honors the ancestors.”

The evening of celebration will feature traditional Chinese food and entertainment with Asian ties.

“We have quite a few traditional cultural dances planned,” Charlie Gendron said. “There will be bhangra (dancing) from Michigan State, a skit about the year of the wooden horse, Chinese yo-yo, and a lot of different food. We’ll have a little traditional Nepali dance — that’s really interesting. Delta Phi Lambda will put on a little performance, too.”

“For us, it’s a celebration,” Charlie Gendron said. “We put (the event) on to sit back, eat, relax, watch some great performances and have a great time.”

The new year will be the year of the wooden horse, according to the Chinese zodiac.

“In China there is the Chinese zodiac which represents 12 animals. I am sure you have seen it at a Chinese restaurant or something,” said Nathanael Sage Gendron, president of the Asian Student Union. “Every other lunar new year, the cycle changes to a new animal; last year the snake, this year the horse. At the same time though, there is a cycle of five elements (fire, water, wood, earth, and metal) that revolves as well. So this year ends up being the (year of the) wood horse.”

Each animal and element are imbued with special meaning and characteristics.

“Those characteristics will combine and interact each year for a new, reformed set of astrological characteristics,” Nathanael Gendron said. “For example, this new year it will be the year of the wood horse. That is characteristic of confidence, surprising romance and enthusiasm. For people it can mean fast victories in competition and unexpected adventures. Having a high tempo in life and being dedicated to finishing things quickly can bring good fortune.”

While the new year celebration is hosted at GVSU, the event will include other Michigan colleges. The GVSU Asian Student Union is planning the event, but students and performers from Michigan State University and the University of Michigan will also attend.

The event begins at 6 p.m. in the Grand River room of the Kirkhof Center. The celebration is scheduled to last three hours, and Nathanael Gendron urges participants to experience the entire event.

“Our biggest, most exciting events are toward the end, specifically MSU’s bhangra dance club and U of M’s Revolution Chinese yo-yo team,” he said.

Students from all ethnicities and backgrounds are encouraged to attend.

“Something we try to get out there is that it’s not just for Asians,” Charlie Gendron said. “We try to open it up more for all students. One of our biggest goals is to promote diversity and cultural awareness. We try to fight cultural incompetence.”

The goal of fighting this incompetence goes further than the Chinese New Year celebration. The Asian Student Union welcomes all students to join its meetings and other events planned throughout the year, including the conference held in March.

“We try to plan our meetings taking in account that there are other ethnicities in our organizations,” Charlie Gendron said. “We make it so everyone is involved.”

For those interested in attending the Asian Student Union’s meetings, they are held every Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Kirkhof 2270.