By Lauren Herber, Co-Editor
February 8, 2016 marked the start of the Year of the Monkey. This traditional Chinese holiday is celebrated over the course of 16 days with fireworks, family gatherings, dumplings, and the well-known red envelopes. Last Thursday, Thunderbird’s Greater China Club brought the Chinese New Year celebrations right here to Glendale.
The evening started with a traditional family activity: the making of homemade dumplings. The beef filling (a secret family recipe) was made by Yan Ren (MAGAM ’17, China) while Peng Gao (MAGAM ’17, China) provided fresh, homemade dough. The members of the club taught the newcomers how to wet just the edges of the dough circle and then fold the halves of the dumpling intricately around a dollop of filling. Many of us watched in awe as Yan, Tony, Jialu, and Janice deftly worked the edges of the dumplings into beautiful designs. The whole process was a fun, hands-on way to learn about new traditions, cultures, and foods.
The best part, though, was when we got to taste the dumplings that we had prepared. All were in agreement: delicious! The finished dumplings were piping hot, they were full of flavor, and they came in a variety of shapes and sizes. Also fun was learning (or at least trying to learn) to use chopsticks; the slippery dumplings posed a serious challenge for first-time chopstick users like myself. Fortunately, there were plenty of expert chopstick-users present, willing and able to help.
When the dumplings were finished, the party moved to the Pub to continue celebrating. Chinese lanterns formed the backdrop and red envelopes were handed out containing small, luck-bringing gifts. My red envelope concealed a delicate wooden key chain with the name of a prominent Chinese university carved into the front (Fudan University). The back of the key chain featured a delicate carving of two Mandarin characters, which Jason Qiao (MAGAM ’17, China) informed me translated to “fu,” the Chinese word for luck. I felt lucky indeed to have the opportunity to experience a part of a new culture with my classmates.
The celebration was thoroughly enjoyed by all in attendance. “The Chinese New Year event was really successful,” said Yan, “and I would say everyone who participated in the Chinese dumpling making truly experienced a part of traditional Chinese culture.” Peng was in agreement: “We underestimated Tbirds’ enthusiasm and didn’t prepare enough dumplings. I’m glad to have our friends together for events like this.” This sentiment reflects an important aspect of traditional Chinese New Year celebrations: family and togetherness. “The Chinese New Year is all about family,” said Yan. “Every family member should try to come home, no matter how far or how busy he or she is.” Many families like to travel during their time together. “In China, almost everyone will have 7 days off for celebrating and reuniting with their family,” explained Jialu Yu (MAGAM ’17, China). “My family went on a trip together, which made me jealous since I wasn’t able to make it back to join them!”
Luckily, our Thunderbird celebration of dumpling making was able to give a sense of home to those who weren’t able to travel back to China for the New Year. “Making and having dumplings is one of the traditions we celebrate,” said Peng. “In Chinese, ‘dumpling’ shares the same pronunciation with a word that means ‘changing times.’ It seems a little funny, but it’s all tradition, with our best wishes.” Students from other countries and cultures also loved this aspect of the celebration. “I loved learning how to make dumplings! It was such a unique experience,” shared Andrea Kaloush (MAGAM ’17, U.S.). Gabby Gueye (MAGAM ’17, U.S.) agreed: “The dumplings were the perfect social activity before rocking out at the pub. It reminded me of the importance of spending time and connecting with those closest to us.” And Ellen Alexander (MAGAM ’17, U.S.) was the lucky recipient of a special dumpling surprise: a penny. “I was surprised when I bit into my last dumpling to find a penny, but was informed that it meant I would have a year of luck!” All expressed gratitude to our classmates in the Greater China Club who were willing to take the time to share their culture and traditions.
All in all, the Chinese New Year celebrations were a success. Everyone present had the opportunity to experience an important part of Chinese culture and tradition: togetherness. Happy Year of the Monkey to everyone, and luck and prosperity to all!