Belmont’s Chinese Cultural Association invited students to ring in the Year of the Tiger with songs, snacks and cultural learning.
Officers shared the symbols and traditions of the Lunar New Year, one of the biggest celebrations in the world.
But it’s a celebration many students may not know much about.
One of the most significant symbols is this year’s zodiac — the tiger.
Since the Chinese zodiac follows a 12-year cycle, previous tiger years occurred in 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962, 1950 and so on, and the sign carries its own significance for the year.
“The tiger is power and confidence and auspiciousness, and it symbolizes all those sorts of things. It’s a great year,” said freshman presenter JT Jenkins, whose zodiac is the sheep.
But the tiger is more than just strength and confidence. It also represents renewal.
“Tiger in Chinese culture is really prosperous … it’s a symbol of refreshing energy,” said CCA faculty adviser and dragon sign Joan Li. “Especially nowadays. After the pandemic has been depressing us, we want a new start.”
“People put a lot of hope and best wishes because of the tiger.”
“This is the biggest celebration China offers … Chinese New Year is something that’s highly done around the world, and we want to do the same thing on Belmont’s campus,” said CCA president and fellow dragon Jace Locke.
The goal of the CCA event is to bring more awareness to Chinese culture, said Locke.
“They usually hear about the political. So hopefully, this gives them a new perspective,” he said.
Officers presented other symbols and stories of the holiday, like the great animal race ordered by the Jade Emperor, in which the rat reigned supreme, determining the order of the zodiacs. Others spoke on how the color red and firecrackers were used to scared away Nian, a legendary monster that terrorized a village, and how the Mandarin orange signifies prosperity, unity and wholeness on the Lunar New Year..
The event wasn’t just a learning opportunity, but a chance for CCA to get involved with Belmont’s diversity initiatives.
“Belmont is a university aimed for diversity,” said Li. “CCA, we want to be a part of it, to propel the understanding of culture and diversity and especially Chinese New Year.”
CCA event coordinator Janis Chen, a snake sign, got involved at Monday’s event to remember past Lunar New Year celebrations with her family in New York.
“I have no family here, so it’s different this year since I’m not going to have a reunion dinner. But it’s nice to have friends to celebrate it with here,” said Chen. “It’s nice to have a difference. It’s nice to have a change … While I’m here, I’ll make the best of it,”
However, some students came to gain a new perspective. Attendee Niang Awm, also a snake sign, enjoyed learning about the culture and origins of the Lunar New Year.
“I didn’t know about all the traditions of Chinese New Year and how it became. I didn’t know how it started. I thought it was just a celebration during New Year’s,” said Awm.
Anna Trinh, a horse sign, found it interesting to see the similarities in how different cultures celebrate the Lunar New Year.
“I also celebrate Lunar New Year because I’m Vietnamese, and it was really interesting to see the connections between everything,” Trinh said.
On her way out, Trinh said the event was a good cultural influence for Belmont’s campus.
“I think it’s really important because you get to share with people,” said Trinh.
“Not a lot of people know about the whole tradition of Asian Americans and all of the little interesting stories. It’s such a big celebration, so I think it’s nice to learn about it and learn about a new thing.”
The Lunar New Year officially begins Tuesday.
This article was written by David Pang.