Lamar celebrates Chinese New Year
Tuesday marked the beginning of the Chinese New Year, a festival celebrating the start of the Lunar calendar. This year is the year of the pig, the twelfth Chinese zodiac animal of the Chinese calendar.
“Chinese New Year is an opportunity for families to reunite and stay together,” Jing Zhang, LU assistant professor of computer science, said.
The Lamar office of global diversity and inclusive excellence, in association with the Chinese Association of Southeast Texas, will host a Chinese New Year 2019 Celebration, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday, at The Event Centre in downtown Beaumont.
The festival will feature performances of traditional Chinese dances and songs, as well as Chinese cuisine.
“In China, especially in northern China, we have dumplings, a traditional new year food,” Zhang said.
There are a lot of Chinese students and faculty here in Southeast Texas, Zhang, who is a co-coordinator for the event, said.
“We want to have something to celebrate, to make Chinese people here aware that we have a party here and can find something interesting to do together,” he said. “
Sponsors include programs from Lamar, Texas A&M, ExxonMobil and many different companies, Zhang said.
“We’re working together to make something,” he said.
Zhang, who is from Xian, said that like New Year’s celebrations that follow the Gregorian calendar, participants stay up until midnight to welcome the new year by setting off fireworks.
“I remember a lot of things about the fireworks from when I was a child,” he said. “We do the fireworks to scare away the monster, Nian.”
The name Nian means “year” in Chinese, and it is tradition to scare the monster with fireworks so that the new year may be safe, Zhang said.
Chinese New Year, referred to as the Spring Festival in mainland China, is the most important festival in Chinese culture and lasts for 15 days. During the festival, red envelopes are exchanged, often containing money, meant to bring good luck and ward off bad spirits. The year of the pig has its own symbolism.
“The pig is cute, and I think many families want to have a baby in the year of a pig so their baby can be very healthy and it can be strong,” Zhang said.
Zhang, who has been a Lamar faculty member since 2014, said that there is a long tradition of celebrating Chinese New Year on campus and he hopes it will continue to grow.
“I think this will be the 27th year the tradition is being held,” he said. “They used to have the celebrations in the Setzer Student Center, but we had to find another place. We chose the Event Centre because it’s bigger and we can bring Chinese food in there. We did it there last year and it was very successful — it’s against university policy (to bring other food) on campus and we want traditional Chinese food, not just from our dining halls. We have four Chinese restaurants supporting this celebration that will provide the food.”
Imelda Wicks, executive director of diversity, inclusive excellence & training, said celebrating different cultures representing the Lamar population benefits the entire community.
“Lamar University is very diverse — what we want to do is not only celebrate cultures, but at the same time create an environment of inclusiveness where everybody feels proud of their heritage, and proud of who they are,” she said. “We can represent what we have in our community a diverse and global population.”
Planning for the event began last semester with help from the Chinese Association of Southeast Texas.
“Four percent of our student population identify as Asian, and four percent of our faculty and staff identify as Asian, so we reached out to those individuals in the community for them to help us plan an event where we ask how they’d like to celebrate Chinese New Year,” Wicks said. “We started brainstorming what would be meaningful. I had some ideas, but I wanted to hear from the LU community of what has more value to them and how would they like to celebrate their culture.”
Zhang said that he hopes students are able to learn about Chinese culture and have a good time and continue to attend for years to come.
The Chinese New Year celebration is RSVP only. Contact Reality Boutte at 880-1732, or visit lamar.edu/chinesenewyear.
Rachel Hellums contributed to this story.
Olivia Malick, UP managing editor