A visitor was on the phone, trying to direct a friend to the fifth annual Lunar New Year Celebration on the Lakeside Patio.
“Just find the white tents,” he said.
The tents housed just part of Monday night’s festivities at the University of Miami that included food, entertainment, and an educational opportunity to learn about different countries in celebration of the Year of the Monkey on the Chinese calendar.
Hosted by the Asian American Students Association, Hong Kong Students Association, and Chinese Students and Scholars Association, more than hundreds of students turned out for the event. Participants were given a wristband and as they visited the various tents and received letters at each station to spell out the word ‘monkey,’ in honor of the Lunar New Year.
The featured food was provided by countries that also celebrate the New Year. For example, Malaysian culture was represented at their tent with Malaysian chicken curry, Roti Canai (flat bread) and Ais kacang (shaved ice). One tent featured a trivia game about Chinese culture, another showed how to make dumplings out of Playdoh and many gave visitors the opportunity to write their wishes for the New Year.
There was even a tent where people were provided soil and seeds to plant a flower for the New Year. “The idea was based on farmers coming together for the New Year,” said freshman Veronica Lucchese. “It’s the idea of a seed growing something new for a new time.”
Lucchese, who is half Filipino, hadn’t expected to see such a turnout of both students and individuals from the community.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this but I always see awards in the [AASA] office about this event and I didn’t think it’d be this big,” she said. “It’s awesome to see that even people who don’t go here are here to celebrate.”
In the Malaysian tent, students who provided the food quickly ran out due to the big appetites and large demand. “I didn’t think there’d be that many people,” said freshman Carmen Tun. “My mom and I should’ve made more curry chicken.”
Of Chinese-Malaysian decent, Tun has been involved in planning the Lunar New Year celebration since last fall. As she represents Malaysia, she’s really happy to provide new experiences and foods to those who have never been exposed to the culture. “I’m really glad to tell people about Malaysia because no one knows where it is,” joked Tun.
Throughout the evening, different performances were showcased such as the traditional Chinese Lion Dance and a martial arts showcase. Many student performances included dances to “Reflection” from the Disney movie Mulan and pop Chinese music. Others showed traditional Chinese instruments and played songs with them. Additionally, a professional acrobat showed off his skills by balancing on four stacked chairs.
Students who had not experienced the Lunar New Year Celebration, like sophomore Joshua Beauplan, had been looking forward to this event for a while.
“This is something I wouldn’t be exposed to any other way,” he said. “I grew up loving Asian culture but I never had a place to experience the New Year, so this is awesome.”