Lantern Festival Lights Up Chinese New Year Celebration
ICB Club Hosts Honored Heritage Event
As the moon rose over the Tivoli on the fifteen day of the first lunar month, the Turnalle came alive with celebration. It was time for the annual Lantern Festival, which marks the end of New Year celebrations and the first full moon of the year, according to the Lunar Calendar. In China, when this full moon climbs high in the sky, people go outdoors to observe and celebrate with family members. Under the silvery moonlight, they make wishes and pray that the bright moon will bring them peace, happiness and health. In honor of this grand festival, on February 18, 2014, the CU Denver Intercultural Club Beijing (ICB Club) hosted an impressive banquet for Chinese students who are away from home and for other friends and faculty members who enjoy learning about traditional Chinese culture.
The story behind the event comes from a rich, ancient heritage. According to Chinese legends, the Heavenly Jade Emperor was angered and wanted to destroy a hunter’s town on earth because the Emperor’s favorite bird was killed by the hunter. A kind fairy heard of this vengeance and told the people to light lanterns throughout town on that day. The townspeople obeyed, and when the Emperor gazed down at the town, it appeared to be ablaze. He was satisfied and left. From that day on, people have celebrated the anniversary of their deliverance by carring lanterns through the streets during the first full moon night of the year.
Historical records report that the Lantern Festival originated during the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), with the flourishing of Buddhism in China. The ruling emperor showed his respect to Buddha by ordering people to light lanterns in palaces and temples on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. No matter how this Festival originated, the basic idea behind it is togetherness, unity, and prayer for a happy new year.
Part of traditional festivities for the Lantern Festival include watching performances and eating Yuanxiao (sticky rice dumplings). At the beginning of the ICB banquet, the Lion Dance Show ws perfomed, with dancers dressed in beautiful costumes. The lion character’s every movement had a specific musical rhythm and was accompanied with clashing cymbals, a gong, and a drum. Throughout the performance, dancers mimicked various moods and demonstrated physical gestures – leaping like lions – for a life-like representation. The dancers’ brilliant performance caught the audience’s attention, especially as the various “lions” snuck up on unsuspecting guests.
The festival hosts prepared a variety of delicious traditional Chinese dishes, including fried rice, sesame chicken, black pepper beef, and spicy tofu. Of course, yuanxiao, which is a sticky rice dumpling, was essential. Made of rice flour and filled with peanuts, sugar, and rose petals. yuanxiao’s round shape and sweet taste represent reunion, harmony and happiness for the community. It is always a favorite dish.
Dinner was followed by more engaging performances. The ICB students sang, danced, and visited with people of many cultures. Ziyao Yang, a third-year economic student, sang an English song, called “For No Reason.”, which expressed her wishes. Another student, Cheng Zhang, expressed his homesickness through a Chinese song.
Two student organizations, the Spirit of Cambodia Cultural Alliance and the Hawaii Club, performed dances. The first graceful coconut dance portrayed aspects of traditional Cambodian culture. Another dance called “Hula”, which was enthusiastically performed and received, brought people’s imaginations to sunny Hawaii. Weiru Chen’s hip-hop solo was also, according to visitors, “fantastic”. The final mixed number by Ziyuan Liu recalled childhood memories and gave the whole banquet a perfect ending.
This year’s Lantern Festival event created a beautiful and unforgettable night. ICB president Haiyue Liu expressed her appreciation and best wishes to those who attended and prepared for the banquet. After the celebration, Jeff Schweinfest, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences academic advisor, commented, “I think this event is becoming a ‘must-go-to’ event on the campus. I was really happy to see other groups participating. It’s truly an inclusive event that embraces the diversity of our community.” Many guests stated that they enjoyed the evening are looking forward to the next ICB club event.
By Yiying Liu