Cultural student groups celebrate Lunar New Year on campus


Yvonne Kim/Daily Senior staffer

A member of KASA dresses another student in a hanbok, a traditional Korean dress. KASA held programming Thursday to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

Kristine Liao, Reporter

Students rang in the Year of the Rooster on Friday and Saturday with activities organized by the Korean American Student Association and celebrations among friends and family.

Saya Han, external president of KASA, said the group set up different stations in Parkes Hall and encouraged students to play Korean games and try ddeokguk, a traditional rice cake soup. KASA also organized a booth at Norris University Center on Friday for students to try on hanbok — traditional Korean clothing — and eat snacks.

Han said although the group has always gathered to celebrate the Lunar New Year, this year its members tried to expand the event and make it open to all students on campus. Funding from Associated Student Government helped KASA expand programming related to the holiday this year, the Weinberg senior said.

She added that cultural organizations can often lose sight of their central purpose — celebrating a particular culture — so it is important to make efforts to keep the group’s goal in mind.

“Especially on a college campus, it’s pretty easy for a cultural organization to become more of a social group,” Han said. “This past year especially, we’ve been really trying to improve our cultural efforts and outreach efforts to make sure that people who are engaging in our community are able to feel like they’re learning more about Korean culture.”

Some students of Chinese heritage celebrated the Lunar New Year by eating dumplings, a traditional Chinese Lunar New Year dish, at friends’ homes and spending the day in Chicago’s Chinatown to get in touch with their heritage, said Weinberg senior Michelle Chen, president of the Chinese Student Association.

Although CSA doesn’t organize any club events on the day of the Lunar New Year, it co-hosts the annual Celebrasia — a show composed of Asian-focused performance groups in celebration of Chinese and Taiwanese heritage — with the Taiwanese American Students Club. The 2017 Celebrasia will take place on Feb. 18.

“We try to bring in various forms of entertainment that focus on Asian performers,” Chen said. “Acrobatics and magic are performances featured traditionally in China, so that’s something really special.”

In previous years, Celebrasia has featured dancers, singers, comedians and acrobats from both student groups and professional acts. Chen said this year will feature a similar combination of performance groups, including the Refresh Dance Crew, Treblemakers and Typhoon Dance Troupe.

At the next CSA meeting, Chen said members plan to eat dumplings, watch clips from the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, a four-hour long event broadcasted on New Year’s Eve, and discuss the history of Chinese New Year.

Weinberg and Bienen sophomore Kelly Jin, president of the Chinese International Student Association, said this is her seventh year spending the New Year away from family since she went to a boarding high school in the United States. Although she felt a little homesick, she spent the holiday at a friend’s house making dumplings and watching the CCTV New Year’s Gala, she said.

“Even though the gala is kind of boring every year, it’s a traditional thing we do as Chinese students,” Jin said.

Because CISA is a relatively small student group and the members are busy with midterms, it is easier for students to organize their own events in separate groups, either gathering at a friend’s house or having dinner at a Chinese restaurant, Jin said.

However, she said the Chinese Student and Scholar Association, a graduate student group, usually hosts a Lunar New Year gala event that members of CISA attend.

Han said KASA and other groups that celebrate particular cultures are important in providing a space for students who aren’t able to enjoy traditional holidays with their families.

“It provides a home away from home for people,” she said. “It’s really nice to be on campus and share that with other students.”

Jake Holland contributed reporting.

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