In the United States, February 8th was just another day, but for the international students from China it was their New Year.
In China, the Celebration of the New Year is accompanied by an important festival that originated in the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600 BC-c. 1100 BC). The Spring Festival, as it is called, is similar to Christmas as it is the time of year for people to gather together with their families and celebrate the many possibilities and wish their loved ones happiness and prosperity in the New Year.
In honor of this important celebration, International Affairs hosts a Chinese New Year Banquet as a way for the Chinese students to show their culture and enjoy this special time with their friends, fellow students, and beloved faculty and staff at ENMU.
The Chinese Banquet was held on February 5th in the ballroom for anyone in the ENMU community to attend. All guests had to RSVP by the 29th of January to reserve their place along with the $15 payment for the traditional chinese dinner and student-led show.
Instead of just explaining that this year represents the Chinese zodiac year of the monkey, there was an actual dancing monkey to start the night! (A performer in a costume of course, but the point was well made.)
Introductions followed after by this year’s MC’s Jessie Lee and Tianyu (Andrew) Chen who spoke eloquently as they ushered the program along with enjoyable banter and even introduced the acts in English and Chinese.
The banquet was full of surprises, from a group dressed up in character onesies performing a “Party Dance,” to a song with rap and opera influences that featured gender switched singers and even a belly dancer.
“It was a fun experience and an exciting evening; a great way to bring in the New Year.” said student attendee Alyssa Kyper.
Along with providing dinner and a show, the Chinese Banquet also includes a customary silent auction where guests are invited to bid on items provided by the students. The proceeds from the auction are all put into scholarships for international students.
This year, instead of the silent auction funds going to the international students, the proceeds from one of the special items will all be donated to St. Jude, ENMU’s yearly philanthropy project.
Preparations for such an amazing performance began the summer prior to the banquet where research begins on the zodiac year and ideas of decorations are tossed around. Practice begins in September with meetings set up for all the students who are interested. The performers then contact each other through WeChat, a Chinese app similar to Skype and Facebook.
The students, along with International Affairs, rehearse vigorously in the spring for the Chinese Banquet with practice twice a week, the rehearsals often lasting three to five hours.
“My favorite part is normally at the end when the performers realize all their hard work pays off,” said Director of international Affairs Maria Garcia.
A special video was also included in the banquet this year with clips from past alumni who still to this day keep ENMU in their hearts and still think about their time at a small college in New Mexico.
A previous alumna featured in the video said, “I think I will cherish every part of those memories forever.”
The tradition of holding a Chinese banquet every year started because previous Chinese students wanted to share their culture. With the international population on campus is dominated by students from China, there are many who are interested in keeping the tradition alive.
The 2016 Chinese Banquet came to a close with inspirational words from MC Jessie Lee, “Find yourself more and more content each and every day”