Crossing cultures

Olga Cronin

Shaded from the scorching sun in Lampkin Park, students, faculty and family members from many countries crossed cultural lines and celebrated two traditional Chinese festivals.

Last Saturday, the Chinese Student and Scholar Association (CSSA) organized a pot-luck dinner and cooking competition to commemorate the Chinese Moon Festival that was celebrated in China on Sept.21 and China National Day, which takes place today.

“We’re having one celebration for two different occasions,” explained Xiaoyun Li, chair of the CSSA.

A gentle breeze carried the sounds of traditional music through the shelter and twirled a dangling red, lantern-shaped decoration as everyone introduced themselves in English.

Smiles were exchanged, and the words?”welcome, welcome” offered after each introduction.

The Chinese Moon Festival, also known as the mid-autumn festival, is celebrated on the 15th moon of the eighth Chinese lunar month. It doesn’t arrive on a fixed annual date because the Chinese lunar calendar differs every year.

Traditionally, different legends are told to Chinese children about the moon and why it is celebrated.

Today, these legends aren’t the focus of the festivities.

“We would have heard about them years ago but now we celebrate the moon festival with more emphasis on family unity,” Li said.

The CSSA organized the event so Chinese students and community members and their friends could have their own family-like reunion, although they are far from home.

“We’re like a family overseas,” Li said about the 30 participants of all ages.

Zeng Qiting, a sophomore from China, was glad that she had fellow-Chinese friends around her to celebrate the occasion.

“Of course that’s better,” Qiting said. “It’s like home.”

She said she received phone calls from her mother and her best friend that morning, wishing her a happy moon festival day.

Missing the celebrations at home did not evoke a bout of homesickness in Qiting because she likes the experience of living in another country.

Different dishes were tasted, while everyone wrote down their vote for who should win the “Excellent Cook Award.”

While satisfying their appetites, friends and family sat and chatted. Some knew each other already and others just met. Kids kicked around a soccer ball amid cameras passed back and forth to record the gathering.

Library Associate Professor Haiwang Yuan described China National Day as something similar to the Fourth of July in America.

It marks the establishment of the communist-ruled People’s Republic Of China in 1949.

Yuan was delighted to see students from different parts of the world come together and mix with each other.

He said the group was realizing something that all students should be encouraged to learn – cultural awareness.

“If you isolate yourself, you will always be isolated,” he said. “This is a globalized world. What’s America? It’s a melting pot. People shouldn’t stay within Chinatown, Hispanictown or any other town.”

Geography Professor Richard Deal also joined in the celebration.

“I got an e-mail sent to my office,” Deal said. “I figured I’d come down and try the food. It was pretty good.”

Shiva Ayalasomayajula, a graduate student from India, came to the celebrations after his friend Jun Dou, a graduate student from China, invited him. He brought a different flavor to the meal with a traditional Indian dish.

“It’s totally hot. But it’s supposed to be like that. You’re supposed to eat that with rice,” Ayalasomayajula said to Dou