By Lautaro Grinspan, news correspondent
A line of students eager to usher in the Year of the Monkey snaked outside the doors of the Fenway Center last Sunday night, Feb. 7.
The Students of Singapore and the Malaysian Student Association (MSA) hosted a Chinese New Year celebration as part of the International Student & Scholar Institute’s Carnevale, a two-month initiative that celebrates cultural diversity at Northeastern. The event’s goal was to showcase Singapore and Malaysia’s take on Chinese New Year.
“Chinese New Year… is celebrated in many places across Asia, not just in China,” Yuki Mei Xing Shuck, junior business administration major and president of the Students of Singapore, said. “Singaporeans and Malaysians don’t really have the same traditions as Chinese people… With this event, we’re hoping to introduce to people the way we celebrate the new year.”
Attendees sampled Lunar New Year staples, including pineapple cookies and oranges, visited a photo booth and stopped by the build-a-monkey station to pocket a personalized, stuffed primate. At the venue, a slideshow displayed photos of extravagant Chinese New Year celebrations in Asian cities.
Throughout the event, student performers from Berklee College of Music helped create an East Asian atmosphere, crooning lively songs in Mandarin and Malay, with Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” making a surprise appearance in their repertoire.
A traditional lion dance performance drew the biggest applause of the night. A pair of two-person-operated “lions,” one yellow, the other red, pranced around the room to the sound of ringing cymbals.
Although this was the event’s debut – both the Students of Singapore and the MSA were approved as official clubs within the past year – the turnout was considerable.
“The number was not what we expected,” Shuck said. “On Facebook, 577 people said they were coming, [while] I’m pretty sure my e-board and the MSA e-board only invited 100 people. And we only had food for 150 people on a first-come, first-served basis. Actually, you can’t have more than 150 people at a time in the Fenway Center because it can be a fire hazard.”
Some attended to mark a holiday celebrated where they are from, while others wanted to experience Chinese traditions.
“I’m minoring in Chinese, so I’ve always been kind of interested in the culture,” Taylor Duckworth, a freshman bioengineering major, said. “I knew it was Chinese New Year so I felt it would be a good experience for me to come and see what it was about.”
The Fenway Center celebration gave sophomore bioengineering major Sereivadhana Song the taste of the festivities back home.
“I’m from Cambodia, but we’re Chinese-blooded,” Song said. “Because my family isn’t here, as an international student, celebrating with friends is the next best thing.”
Shuck hopes for the event to create a lasting interest in both her traditions and club.
“It’s tough to attract people to a cultural club unless you have a direct connection to it,” she said. “There’s the idea that it’s only for the people from that country or culture. With this event, we wanted to share the culture and make it open to everyone.”
Photo by Suma Hussein