Fangwei “Elina” Xu was 12,000 miles from home for this year’s Lunar New Year — also known as the Spring Festival, one of the most important holidays in many Asian communities.
It came as a big surprise to the exchange student from Hefei, China, when hundreds of students, faculty, staff and community members packed The Gathering Place to cheer on her hip-hop dance routine with friend Qianxi “Brooke” Chen and other performances that made up Marietta College’s Lunar New Year Celebration.
“Actually, I didn’t expect there would be such a great celebration for the Chinese traditional festival before I came here, so it was a surprise for me,” she says. “In China, we spend time with our families and friends during the Spring Festival and have a lot of fun. MC gives me a feeling of being at home. It’s impressive that [Marietta College] members are willing to embrace different cultures.”
Dozens of volunteers — from students in Assistant Professor Ni Zhang’s Chinese classes to the student organization Brother 2 Brother — decorated, planned and performed during the two-hour celebration, which was held in late January to mark the start of the Year of the Mouse.
“The Chinese word may refer to rat, mouse or other muroid-type animals,” Xu says, adding that the Chinese culture considers rats to be quick thinkers.
The event was sponsored by the Asian Studies Department and the Office of Diversity & Inclusion. The evening included Chinese food, dance and vocal performances by students, a fashion show, and a special Lion Dance by Sen Gao, who is highly competitive in martial arts.
“Lunar New Year is a wonderful tradition that originated from Marietta College’s mentor family program,” says Marisa Menier, an intern with the Office of Education Abroad and the Office of Diversity & Inclusion. “What once was a small gathering of mentor families connecting with their Marietta students’ home culture has grown to one of the largest events on campus. Lunar New Year still honors the college’s ties to China, but also has become a point of contact for community members who have adopted children from China, or who are otherwise interested in Chinese culture, to connect to this international celebration.”