Club Cantonese welcomes all to exuberant Chinese New Year celebration

February 3, 2017

Cantonese Club rang in the new year with Jeopardy, food and much laughter on Saturday, Jan. 28 in the Intercultural Center. No, this was not the kind of event where people could grab plates of free food and sneak out the back. Club Cantonese taught everyone about the Lunar New Year, served delicious traditional Chinese treats and created an inclusive environment from the get-go. Most of all, this event instilled a sense of community within anyone who attended. Club Cantonese had so much to offer that it was impossible to leave.

This year was the club’s first time hosting the event, and their strong efforts shined through and most certainly paid off.

Since it is the year of the rooster, the club’s E-board started off the night with an animated video of the year’s animal. This silly clip instantly established an easygoing ambience in the room, making newcomers feel welcomed.

The board members subsequently touched upon the background behind Chinese New Year, which is also referred to as Lunar New Year and Spring Festival. Each Chinese New Year begins on a different day because of the Chinese lunisolar calendar. For that reason, the holiday could start some time in January or February, but always ends on the 15th day of the first month in the lunar calendar. Saturday, Jan. 28 marked the beginning of Chinese New Year in 2017. The long holiday always ends with the Lantern Festival. Beautiful, bright red lanterns fill the night sky, accompanied by parades, fireworks, food and other festivities.

Although there were no dazzling fireworks or wild lion dances, 50 students from all different backgrounds filled the room with eager smiles.

The highlight of the night was Club Cantonese’s special version of Jeopardy. The club customized this traditional trivia game to fit with the holiday. Each of the four teams took on the identity of a vegetable as their group mascot. Teams could answer trivia questions from five categories: food, traditions, superstition, trivia and rooster trivia.

Some questions were easy, like, “What do parents usually give to their children on Chinese New Years?” One of the teams correctly answered red envelopes. Another question, “What sound does a rooster make?” received a comical imitation of a rooster with a squawking noise. Others questions were more challenging, like “Recite the 12 zodiac signs in order.”

However, most debated was a true-or-false question about whether roosters can fly. While the first team to buzz answered false, the answer was actually true.

The questions ranged from common sense to something completely unheard of, but Club Cantonese created the game so that anyone could participate. In order to answer a question, team representatives had to sit at the front of the room and race against each other to reach a paper cup. Whichever representative snatched the cup from the table first was allowed to answer the question before the other teams.

The more stationary people who just wanted to relax were able to sit on couches and discuss their team’s answers. While trivia game participants had to think hard to produce responses, Club Cantonese co-president Jennifer Wu ’18 admitted that she had to do a lot of research to generate those 25 questions.

There are clearly several unique ways to ring in the new lunar year. A common practice that anyone can enjoy is food. Club Cantonese ordered a few traditional Chinese treats for everyone to try. The club served fried rice, spring rolls, Daikon cake and steamed New Year cake. The fried rice contained vegetables and meat, while the spring rolls were vegetarian. Daikon cake translates to turnip cake, and the steamed New Year cake was a gelatinous, yellow rice cake. Club Cantonese also prepared milk tea on their own. Event-goers clearly enjoyed the classic Chinese dishes, since a line formed immediately after Wu announced that people could help themselves to second servings.

Although all of these traditional Chinese New Year delicacies tasted incredible, the sense of community stood out the most. There was a great turnout with a variety of ethnicities present in the room. The attendees who were not of Chinese descent listened to the E-board’s opening presentation with open ears and actively participated in Jeopardy.

Wu talked about how she celebrates Chinese New Year when she goes back home. She enjoys going to Chinatown in New York to watch the lion dance performance. Wu competed in the United East Athletics Association (UEAA) to participate in the lion dance when she was younger. She enjoys eating out at dim sum restaurants with her family as well. Last year at Brandeis, Wu and her East Quad hallmates celebrated the holiday with Chinese takeout, which brought back fond memories for Wu.

Back home, Jamie Soohoo ’18 usually spends New Year’s Eve with her family at her grandma’s house. Her family then eats a big meal on the day of Chinese New Year. Similar to Wu, Soohoo orders Chinese takeout when she celebrates the Lunar New Year on campus.

Likewise, Chi Duong ’18 visits her grandparents’ house or stays in her own house when she celebrates Chinese New Year at home. Duong’s family goes to the temple after midnight because once the clock strikes 12, it is the start of the new year.

However, this year Club Cantonese wanted to throw a celebration for anyone who was stuck on campus or for anyone who wanted to experience Lunar New Year for the first time. Honestly, what better way to celebrate the new year with old friends, new friends, tasty food and Jeopardy?

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