Every year, in a time span encompassing late January to mid-February, over a billion people that make up the Chinese population across the world celebrate the beginning of a new lunar year in their own calendar. Each year is categorized by the Chinese Zodiac, represented by 12 animals. Last year was the year of the rooster and this year is of the Dog.
A celebration of the new year occurred at Palm Beach Atlantic University on Feb. 16 at Rinker Hall. In order to join the festivities, you could order tickets online and/or cough up $5. Emily Poh Ying Siow, a foreign exchange student studying at PBA since fall 2016 and from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, organized and oversaw the event. Despite being born and raised in Malaysia, her family ancestrally and culturally is of China, though she does not know which part of the country. When asked about the significance of each zodiac symbol per year and in this case, the dog, she claimed there was “its own significance, I just do not know what is special about this one, just there is a lot of stuff in it.” According to ChineseNewYear2018.com, the dog represents “Yang,” in the “Yin and Yang.” It is the eleventh in order of the zodiac animals, of the earthly branch “Xu.”
Around 30 students, not counting faculty and staff such as the library’s own Anthony Verdusco, came to the festivities to eat and learn about the seasonal event. In terms of food, there was beef and broccoli, chicken lo mein, white rice, bourbon chicken and more among the dishes. As a surprising bonus, the leftover containers of food were allowed to be taken home by anyone who wished to do so. After eating, several games and activities were performed. There was dress up and photos in classical garb, one robe coming from Uzbekistan, a country west of the Chinese border. There was also Chinese lettering or calligraphy, in which you could copy and paint a Chinese word onto a white piece of paper, Chinese New Year trivia, for which one who guesses a question correctly received a paper fan, and Chinese ping pong, in which two people race to move a set of ping pong balls with chopsticks across one side to the other end of the table.
Some may wonder why PBA, a Christian college, would celebrate a cultural event that has no theological connection to the school. Rita Rivera, who helped Ying Siow manage the party as the cashier, explained in the following: “We are with Global Network Society, an international student’s engagement team. Our organization is trying to advocate for the international community at PBA, whereas PBA is a Christian school, but because it has students from over 40 nations, so obviously, we want to make them feel at home here, and that’s one of the values as Christians, you know; supporting each other despite our differences.”
It was an enjoyable yet small look into a cultural holiday which is among the busiest and most celebrated in the world, with countless Chinese returning home to their families each year to participate. As China rises in international prominence each passing year, this holiday may become a bigger deal for those living in America, whether or not they share the same backgrounds or not. I’m not Irish, and yet we have St. Patrick’s Day, so who knows?