WKU students celebrate Chinese New Year

WKU Professor and Coordinator of Web and Emerging Technologies, Haiwang Yuan of Bowling Green teaches students how to make the dough for dumplings on Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, at Baptist Campus Ministry on WKU’s campus. “When people cook together during the holidays it reenforces the family, the same is true with Chinese. They make and eat dumplings to bring in good fortune,” said Haiwang Yuan. Erica Lafser/HERALD

Madihah Abri

Over the weekend, WKU’s Chinese residents opened their arms and doors to the students and community members of Bowling Green to help ring in the Chinese New Year.

To kick off the celebration, guests at the event joined together in a dumpling contest won by Cincinnati senior Cortney Ballard.

“I’m really happy about it. They had a similar event two years ago, and I made like half of the dumplings,” Ballard said.

Ballard, now having experienced both New Year’s celebrations for Americans and New Year’s celebrations for Chinese, noticed how different the holiday is between the cultures.

“America is more of a celebration and ringing in the new year, but for the Chinese culture, it seems to be more about being with friends and family and finding luck for the new year,” Ballard said.

Not all attendants at the party were involved in WKU’s Chinese Flagship Program.

Saudi sophomore Zainab Zamzami heard of the event through the English as a Second Language International program and decided to come with some friends and her kids. Zamzami knew no one within the Chinese program but found the hosts to be very welcoming.

“Even though we didn’t understand each other, it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the food and everything. We came in, and they helped us find seats immediately. They hosted us very well and were very welcoming,” Zamzami said.

For the Chinese culture, New Year’s is much more than just one night of dumpling fun. Chinese society collectively bases the New Year’s celebration around family.

Assistant professor of Chinese Ke Peng, who is originally from the Hunan province in China, said the Chinese New Year means different things to different people.

“Everyone has their own interpretation. For me, it is a time to be together with family, paying respect to your ancestors, and a time to really think about your identity,” Peng said.

Celebrating Chinese New Year in America allows for an integration of cultures. Peng said the biggest difference is having to celebrate with new friends, students learning Chinese, or faculty and staff. It’s a time to expand connections beyond just family and friends.

Peng said the dumpling party was also a learning experience.

“[We’re] definitely building a holistic learning experience and building the type of leader skill set we need in Kentucky. To be a global citizen, we need to integrate multiple cultures and languages. Generally students love learning and enjoying what they see and make,” Peng said.

Elizabethtown freshman Roy Williams is one of many who came simply to experience a little bit of the Chinese culture.

“We have different nations, people of different backgrounds [fostering] the community, different cultures. It’s really interesting,” Williams said.