Students adorned in elaborate lion costumes bounded around to the pounding of drums while onlookers sipped banana-flavored grass jelly drinks.
Underneath the red glow of Chinese lanterns and twinkling lights, University of Minnesota students celebrated the Chinese New Year on Saturday night.
But the students weren’t studying abroad. They were at Coffman Union, where the Chinese American Student Association transformed the Great Hall into a foreign world for students wishing to share their cultural traditions.
More than 550 guests filled the Great Hall, with every table completely full. CASA spent $7,200 on the event, which included free Chinese food from Kowloon restaurant and Chinese drinks for all the guests.
Chinese international student Vivian Zhang, a sophomore food engineering major, sat on the floor of the packed room with wide eyes and a smile as she watched a traditional Chinese dance on the stage. Zhang said the student-organized event meant a lot to her, as she was miles away from home and family.
“I would have felt alone at this time of year if I hadn’t attended this event,” Zhang said.
The night was a mix of Chinese tradition and celebration, including a New Year’s lion dance, traditional music from the Oriental Music Club, comical skits and even a competition over who was the best with chopsticks.
This year the Chinese New Year falls on Feb. 14, but CASA Student President Frank Li said the celebration was held more than a week in advance because in Chinese culture New Year’s Day is a day for family.
“It’s a time for fun, relaxation and for togetherness,” Li said. “You might have problems, but on the Chinese New Year you should be having fun.”
One of the largest costs for the celebration was the food. Li said food is an important aspect of the tradition to share with fellow students. Some of these traditions include making Chinese dumplings with one’s family and eating round fruit and long noodles.
“When I go over to my grandma’s, I eat apples because they say that apples are lucky,” Li said. “We also eat long noodles because they say that if you eat long noodles, you will have a long life.”
The group applied for grants months in advance to receive funds to host the party, but many of the students said all the planning and preparation was worth it to share their culture with each other and others at the University.
“If you’ve been celebrating the Chinese New Year your whole life, the fact that we even offer something is really important,” said Li. “It means that their culture isn’t forgotten and that their home traditions aren’t forgotten here.”