New year, new cultures to discover

EALL and PAACE collaborate to host a Lunar New Year celebration


Ellen Kanzinger

Noelle Rutland, ‘17, and Daisy Kelly, ‘18, perform a song with their Chinese class. Photo by Steven Yeung, ‘17.

Laura Wang

It may be a month into the new year for most, but for East Asian countries, it is only just beginning.

In celebration of this year’s Lunar New Year, which recognizes a new year based on the cycles of the moon, the Pan-Asian Association for Culture Exchange hosted an event in Commons Living Room on Feb. 4, with support from the East-Asian Languages and Literatures department and the Student Association for International Learning. This celebration was early, as the actual date of Lunar New Year was Feb. 8.

Individual students and ones currently taking Chinese or Japanese classes showcased Asian culture in groups, singing duets and on the piano.

PAACE and EALL started planning for the Lunar New Year celebration last November so that students could begin practicing the first week of winter term.

“I think PAACE did a really great job by their sense of responsibility and commitments,” professor of Japanese Janet Ikeda, the head of EALL, said. “I want it to be a student run event with support from EALL. It helps exercising students’ leadership. They ordered the food, did the decorating and publicizing, set up and cleaned up. I don’t think it would be that successful and popular if it was entirely planned by faculty.”

Many feel that the Lunar New Year celebration is a great educational opportunity for non-Asian W&L students.

“Not a lot of people know Lunar New Year until they meet up in a celebration like this,” copreident of PAACE Susan Ma, ‘16, said. “Students can watch a lot of performances about Asia and see the diversity of East Asia.”

“The performances are really encouraging and informative because [they are] introducing Lunar New Year and traditional culture in different Asian countries,” Lingran Wang, an EALL Chinese teaching assistant, agreed.

Wang performed the traditional Chinese celebration song “Good Fortune Comes,” with Xiaoxia Yin, ‘19.

“I didn’t really know the song before Xiaoxia telling me that she want to sing this song with me,” Lingran said. “We [only] practiced three times before tonight.”

The celebration not only teaches American students about Asian culture, but also helps students who are currently studying Chinese or Japanese learn about East Asia.

“As a Chinese major, I feel like I know about Lunar New Year and some Chinese culture,” Trenten Babcock, ‘17, who is currently taking Chinese 321, said. “But for understanding other Asian cultures, like [that of] Japanese and Korea, this event really helps. We, as U.S. citizens, generally don’t have a good understanding of Asian culture. So this event is kind of helping narrow the gap of understanding be- tween Eastern and Western culture.”

In addition to students and faculty, a lot of people from the community came and supported the event. Retired EALL faculty and some members of Kendall retirement home in Lexington came to W&L for the Lunar New Year Celebration.

“Many times these multi-cultural activities are attended by students who have already opened up to different cultures,” Ikeda said. “But there are a lot students still not. EALL and PAACE want to move beyond that. It’s called ‘preaching to the choir.’ We want to do more of these events to share Asian culture with [more] W&L students.”