Celebrating Diversity and Heritage: Highlights from the 2024 Lunar New Year Festivities

In commemorating the Lunar New Year, the Department of Asian Studies and the UBC Alma Mater Society (AMS) joined forces to orchestrate a memorable event celebrating the Year of the Dragon with a rich tapestry of cultural diversity. This event took place on February 8 at the AMS Student Nest located on the UBC campus.

A panorama of the celebration event and display booths

Elevating beyond mere observation, the Lunar New Year celebration of this year served as a poignant demonstration of UBC’s commitment to cultivating a profound understanding of diverse cultural heritages. It surpassed the ordinary by blending traditional rituals with a dynamic array of performances and engaging experiences meticulously crafted for the colorful community of UBC students. From captivating lion dances to mesmerizing musical performances, every aspect of the event was designed to resonate with the spirit of the Lunar New Year and ignite a sense of unity among attendees.

Dr. Christopher Rea delivering an opening speech onstage

The festivities commenced with an animated opening address by Dr. Christopher Rea, esteemed Professor of Modern Chinese Literature within the Department of Asian Studies. Infused with wit and charm, Dr. Rea’s speech instantly captivated the audience, setting the vibrant tone for the event. His anecdotes, peppered with witty observations and personal reflections, invited attendees on a journey of discovery, bridging the gap between academia and everyday life.

Traditional Chinese Lion Dance performance

The Chinese lion dance performance stole the spotlight with its vibrant energy and graceful movements. As the rhythmic beat of drums filled the air, two majestic lions adorned in colorful costumes leaped and twirled in perfect synchrony. The intricately crafted lion heads came to life, their expressive eyes captivating the audience with a sense of mystique and wonder. With each graceful leap and playful gesture, the lions paraded through the crowd, interacting with onlookers and spreading blessings for the year ahead.

Students engaged in Calligraphy, writing the character 福 (symbolizing good fortune)

Amidst the festivities, students immersed themselves in the art of calligraphy at the dedicated booth, carefully crafting the character 福, symbolizing good fortune and blessings. With focused concentration, they dipped their brushes into pots of ink, each stroke meticulously placed to form the elegant curves and lines of the character. As the ink flowed gracefully onto paper, the air was filled with a sense of tranquility and purpose. Through their creative endeavors, students not only honored a revered tradition but also embraced the auspicious symbolism of 福, ushering in prosperity and joy for the Lunar New Year and beyond.

Students gathered around the dumpling booth folding dumplings

At the dumpling-making booth, participants were welcomed by the aroma of freshly prepared ingredients and the sound of laughter and chatter. Skilled instructors guided eager attendees through the traditional process of crafting dumplings, from kneading the dough to filling and shaping each delicate parcel. As participants worked together, the air was filled with the excitement of learning a cherished culinary tradition and the anticipation of savoring the fruits of their labor. From novice to expert, everyone had the chance to roll, fold, and pinch their way to creating delicious dumplings, fostering a sense of camaraderie and community amidst the lively festivities.

Traditional Chinese sugar painting of a dragon using hot liquid sugar

Participants were also treated to a mesmerizing display of sugar art, where skilled artisans expertly crafted molten sugar into captivating sculptures, delighting both the eyes and the taste buds of onlookers. As they marveled at the intricate details and vibrant colors of these edible masterpieces, attendees had the opportunity to witness firsthand the creativity and skill involved in this traditional art form. The sugar sculptures not only served as visual treats but also provided a deliciously sweet addition to the festivities, adding to the overall sensory experience of the event.

Hongyang Tao Laoshi helping students at the Chinese knots booth

At the Chinese knot-tying booth, vibrant strands of colorful cord adorned the space, drawing participants in with their intricate patterns and cultural significance. Skilled instructors demonstrated the art of knot tying, showcasing a variety of traditional designs and techniques passed down through generations. Eager attendees had the opportunity to learn and practice the intricate movements required to create these ornate knots, each symbolizing luck, prosperity, and harmony.

Students gathered in an exciting game of Mahjong (麻将)

In a bustling corner of the festivities, students congregated around Mahjong tables, their faces illuminated by the warm glow of the lanterns overhead. The rhythmic clack of tiles echoed through the air as players eagerly shuffled, arranged, and discarded with strategic precision. With each move, tension mounted and excitement grew, punctuated by bursts of laughter and triumphant cheers. From seasoned veterans to eager beginners, participants immersed themselves in the intricate gameplay, forging connections and building friendships over the timeless tradition of Mahjong.

Dance performance by UBC students

The stage came alive with a fusion of traditional and modern dance performances, captivating the audience with a dynamic showcase of cultural evolution. Dancers adorned in vibrant costumes seamlessly blended age-old movements with contemporary flair, breathing new life into time-honored traditions. From graceful bamboo-hat dances to energetic hip-hop choreography, each performance celebrated the diversity and dynamism of Asian culture. As the music pulsed and the dancers moved in perfect harmony, spectators were transported on a journey that bridged the gap between the past and the present.

UBC students dressed in traditional Korean Hanboks

Throughout the event, students adorned in an array of traditional Asian clothing added a vibrant splash of color and culture to the event. From elegant hanboks to intricate qipaos, each garment spoke volumes about the rich heritage and diversity of Asian traditions. With pride and grace, students showcased their cultural identities through their attire, honoring generations of tradition while celebrating the spirit of the Lunar New Year. As they mingled and posed for photographs, the beauty and significance of their costumes served as a powerful reminder of the unity and resilience found within the Asian community.

Students posing for a picture dressed in the God of Wealth costume (right)

Amidst the festivities, students eagerly lined up to don the iconic costume of the God of Wealth, its shimmering robes and ornate accessories embodying prosperity and good fortune. With beaming smiles and playful gestures, they posed confidently for photographs, channeling the spirit of abundance and success. Each snapshot captured not only the joy and excitement of the moment but also the timeless symbolism of prosperity and blessings that the God of Wealth represents.

For students of Chinese heritage, this event served as a poignant reminder of their cultural roots and provided a comforting sense of connection to their heritage, particularly for those who found themselves unable to journey back to Asia to reunite with their families for the Lunar holiday. Amidst the bustling campus atmosphere, participating in the festivities offered a moment of solace and belonging, allowing them to celebrate their traditions and customs while being surrounded by their UBC community.

“Being part of the event felt like a heartfelt embrace from home, especially as I couldn't be with my family in China for the Lunar New Year. It served as a poignant reminder of the rich cultural heritage we carry within us, a heritage that thrives even here at UBC.”
CLP Volunteer

For Asian language learners, the Lunar New Year event holds profound significance as it provides a unique opportunity to deepen their understanding and connection to the cultures they are studying. By immersing themselves in the festivities, students can witness firsthand the customs, traditions, and linguistic nuances associated with the Lunar New Year celebrations. Engaging in activities such as dumpling-making, calligraphy, and traditional dances allows them to apply their language skills in real-life contexts, fostering a deeper appreciation for the cultural richness embedded within the languages they are learning. Moreover, the event serves as a platform for language learners to interact with native speakers and fellow enthusiasts, creating a supportive and immersive environment where they can enhance their language proficiency while forging meaningful connections within the Asian community.

“We were lucky to witness a range of traditional events and displays here on the UBC campus. Seeing people dressed in traditional Chinese costumes was like stepping back in time. The many booths showed the variety and depth of Chinese craftsmanship and culinary skills. This experience deepened our understanding and appreciation of Lunar New Year celebrations.”
CHIN 143 Student

In the digital realm of social media, the vibrant echoes of our event were preserved as students eagerly exchanged reflections and mesmerizing photo collages. With each post and comment, the virtual space came alive with laughter, shared insights, and snapshots capturing the essence of the festivities. As friendships were strengthened and bonds were forged through pixels and emojis, the spirit of unity and collaboration flourished, echoing the vibrant energy of our community. Now, let’s immerse ourselves in the delightful tapestry of memories woven through the students’ captivating photo collage submissions:

By an anonymous student from CHIN 143 and by an anonymous student from CHIN 131

By Eden Lee (李依彤) from CHIN133 and by Jacky Lin (林梓杰) from CHIN 343

By Jacky Lin (林梓杰) from CHIN 343 and by Vi Nguyen(阮玉) from CHIN 337

By Chujin Xu (徐楚瑾) from CHIN 485 and by Clair Tang (唐雅钰) from CHIN 473

Central to the Lunar New Year event was student involvement, fostering a vibrant atmosphere of belonging and connection. From the animated collaboration in dumpling making to the precise strokes of calligraphy, students enthusiastically immersed themselves in all facets of the celebration, cultivating connections while gaining insight into Lunar New Year customs. This gathering vividly exemplified the resilience of the community and the jubilance of cultural celebrations, enriching understanding of various traditions and fostering unity. As the Year of the Dragon unfolds, there is a dedicated commitment to fostering inclusivity and embracing cultural diversity at UBC.

Gratitude is extended to every volunteering student, professor, and community member whose dedication made this event a resounding success. May the vibrant energy and indomitable spirit of the dragon serve as a beacon of strength and prosperity for the year ahead.

Written By Angelia Tu
Photos by Yichen Liu, Chentian Li, and Jiaying Zhang