Chinese club celebrates the chinese new year with students and the local community
Two long red papers hang on the open doors of the Centrum. Chinese characters are elegantly scrawled from top to bottom across the vivid color. This is the Chun Lian and on it are sayings that wish people good luck in the new year.
There is more red inside.
“It doesn’t matter if it is a wedding or a festival or whatever it is, it’s red,” said James Stein, the president of Chinese club. “Red has always been a color of joy and happiness. It’s just everything positive along with that color.”
Chinese New Year falls on Feb. 8, a Monday, but Chinese club is holding the vibrant celebration on Feb. 13, a Saturday. This way, more students and members of the Fargo-Moorhead community can attend the five o’clock show.
“Chinese New Year is basically a one night evening celebration, so we always have lots of food,” said Marina Sandoval, the vice president of Chinese club. “We actually always run out of food because we get more people every year.”
The food at the event will be free for all those who attend. On the menu is pork Cantonese sweet and sour, chicken pot stickers, fettuccine with black bean garlic sauce, fried rice and cream cheese wontons — all somewhat traditional dishes, according to Mikayla Frey, a member of Chinese club.
Along with the copious amounts of food, Chinese club puts on a variety show for people to enjoy. The variety show lasts an hour, with acts performed by students invited to entertain the crowd, Sandoval said.
The variety show will have performances by students from two Fargo schools, people playing songs on Chinese instruments and perhaps even a choreographed sword fight by the foam weapon fighting club, according to Sandoval. The Chinese club is also performing a play.
“It is about monkeys, because it is the year of the monkey, [and] these monkeys try to capture the moon,” Sandoval said. “I think it’s pretty cute, but I also wrote it, so, you know, I’m a little biased.”
Members of the club, including Frey, have been to China. Frey spent nine months in China while attending a high school in Shanghai. Frey said she really loved it in China and enjoyed the experience, especially the food.
“I love ‘xiao long bao,’ which loosely translates to soup dumplings, but my favorite thing was when the restaurant across the street [from my host family’s home] opened up, and they started serving them,” Frey said.
According to Frey, Shanghai has around 24 million people, and 16 metro lines that allow someone to go almost anywhere in the city in about an hour. One of Frey’s favorite places was a library in Shanghai because outside of it there were street vendors selling a wide variety of foods.
“Coming back here, I remember thinking that my town was dead, because there was no one doing anything,” Frey said. “It was just all cars.”
Several other members of Chinese club have also been to China. Stein spent a May semester there.
“We had a blast,” Stein said. “And using the language there — it was the most helpful thing I’ve ever had experience in. Marketing and math and subjects, you get to use them, but it’s not the same as when you get to communicate with a different language entirely.”
For both Frey and Stein, China was a new and wonderful experience. Even the little things — the jokes, the slang terms that don’t translate to English, and how people speak — were really interesting to learn about, according to Frey.
“It was weird because talking in China, you’re a lot more verbally expressive. In the U.S. we use a lot more hand gestures than they do — they like never talk with their hands, so that was really weird. I kept doing this a lot,” Frey said, gesturing with her hands in a fitful motion.
In China, people also ask a lot of personal questions, according to Stein. Questions like, how much do you make in the United States? Do you think that I could find a job that makes over $30,000 a year? But they will also ask about your family, too, Stein said.
“They get really personal, really fast,” Stein said. “How close they talk is also different. Like, we’re talking at two-and-a-half feet, three feet. And they talk at a solid one-and-a-half, maybe two, so it’s very different, space-wise.”
Members of Chinese club who have been to China have tried to bring some of the culture back. Club meetings, which happen every Friday, begin with someone reading a poem or a Chinese phrase.
According to Stein, the club also watches movies that are really popular in China, such as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” but there are always English subtitles.
“We have the club based on the fact that anyone can join. You don’t have to know Chinese to be in Chinese club. You don’t have to have any cultural background,” Stein said. “We like to teach some of the culture, and just throw in some hints and tips, like … be aware that if you have your chopsticks sticking straight up and down in a bowl of rice, they’re probably going to be kind of upset with you, because it has to do with incenses, and the dead and spirits.”
Membership in the club fluctuates, according to Sandoval. With larger events, most of the members will show up, which is about twenty to thirty people. On any given Friday, there is about ten to fifteen members who participate.
“We really invite people to … only partake in the weeks that they want to,” Sandoval said. “[More] people are going to come when we are making eggrolls, which was really fun. Last semester, we made egg rolls … and then [our meeting] ran into the International Student Organization’s meeting. It was really fun because then we had tons of people.
The club also holds meetings every now and again at Teaberry, a milk tea shop in downtown Fargo, because tea — especially bubble tea — is popular in China, Stein said. Bubble tea is tea with tapioca pearls that can be served cold or hot.
The club also introduces people to many popular Chinese games in case they ever go to China, Stein said. Common games include Mahjong, which is somewhat similar to the card game rummy and Go, which is a board game.
There will be games mixed in between performances at Chinese New Year celebration as well. One involves using chopsticks to pick up marbles and another involves guessing what Chinese characters mean, Stein said.
“Every year [Chinese New Year] is pretty fantastic, so I’m always excited for it,” Stein said.
According to Sandoval, the event will also be recorded so that it can be sent to friends and family alike.
In the week after the Chinese New Year celebration, there is going to be a student panel and possibly a speaker, discussing different cultural experiences between China and America. For now, though, one can look forward to a new year and the Chinese club’s new year celebration.
“I love Chinese New Year. I think it’s really fun, especially since you put so much work into it. You really want to see it happen,” Sandoval said. “I invite all my friends — well, I actually just invite anyone.”